Sedgwick Co. firefighters fight job cuts in $421M budget for 2015

By Annette Lawless
KAKE – July 30, 2014

Sedgwick County firefighters are tackling a new battle: keeping their jobs.

Wednesday morning, some firefighters from Fire District 1 asked that the county reinstate the positions for the proposed 2015 budget.

“We’re not a cost center within the Sedgwick County budget. We’re a fire district and we’re a value-added service,’ said Dave Thompson, a 17-year firefighter with the county and representative with the International Association of Fire Fighters.

Sedgwick County Manager Bill Buchanan said it’s a tough reality, but eliminating the jobs has helped reduce about $400,000 of its proposed $17.6 million plan for the fire department.

“Despite that savings, the fire district will run a deficit in 2015 and that’s unacceptable,” he said. “This is a consequence of how much services are provided and how high the taxes are. If you’re not going to raise revenues, then service has to be diminished.”

In the past four-and-a-half years, departments have seen significant change, Buchanan said. About 300 positions were eliminated throughout the county — a result of a $59 million loss in revenues from the state.

“This commission’s got a strong commitment to keep this community safe, but we’ve got to do it as responsible a price as possible,” said commissioner Karl Peterjohn.

Commissioner Tim Norton echoed the sentiment and said the county should re-examine areas with a higher call emergency call volume.

Thompson said he understood the reality of budget cuts, but suggests the county consider an alternative.

“It might be time to look at management when it comes to cutting these positions rather than cutting the firefighters, where the rubber meets the road,” he said.

“That’s nonsense,” Buchanan responded. “You need a command structure in absolute emergency situations and that’s an easy thing to talk about but a terrible difficult thing to do.”

Gwen Romine, KSFFA Webmaster

Communication needs for Garland Fire Department

By Tammy Helm
Fort Scott Tribune – July 19, 2014
Submitted by Newz Group Clipping Service – July 30, 2014

Fort Scott Fire Chief Paul Ballou, Bourbon County Emergency manager William Wallis and Bourbon County Emergency Manager Assistant Shane Walker attended the County Commissioner’s meeting to discuss communication upgrades and issues regarding the Garland Fire Department.

Ballou said the Garland Fire Department has installed repeaters.

“We’ve run into one major problem that we’re all going to need to address,” Ballou said. “Right now, I think in dispatch we don’t have room to run another frequency, which is what they’re going to be running on.”

He said he thinks by using a “control head,” he can accommodate that issue by using a frequency that is not frequently used.

“But I’ve had conversations with them, and right now they’re going to be operating basically on their own,” Ballou said.

He said the other systems used by the other departments also don’t have access for an additional frequency. He said he spoke about the issue with Connie May, Garland Fire District Board member.

“But since then, the company we’re working with now, with the city and county communication, think they can make this work, like we originally planned to do,” Ballou said. “This company that put it in said there’s a possibility we’ll have some problems, so they want three frequencies. But the company we have now is just the opposite. They say we can make it work.”

Wallis said there is a problem with Garland having its own frequency.

“They decided to go on their own,” Wallis said. “The problem is, by being on their own frequency, that’s where they stand. Being on their own frequency, dispatch can and has gotten a hold of them, and they’ve responded numerous times and varying times, daytime, night time and so forth. But the problem is, by trying to say they can respond on their own frequency is, if they respond to a fire and they need backup, they’re not going to get it, because they cannot respond, they cannot send that back.”

“We can’t go three frequencies on pagers and stuff and the trucks don’t have room for three frequencies,” Walker said. “And that’s what we told them.”

Wallis said currently there is an automatic mutual aid agreement between Garland and Fort Scott Township. Under the agreement, both departments will automatically respond to each other’s calls.

“Garland does get reception, they do receive calls, because they have responded to calls,” Wallis said. “What Paul is talking about is this new business that has the technology, we haven’t wanted to start throwing money at this thing–this has been a situation since the beginning of the year–we haven’t wanted to just write a blank check, throwing money at this thing and hopefully we’ll find a piece of equipment that’s going to work. No. We’re not going to work like that.

“This company that Paul has contracted with, that he has found out of Topeka, has the technology and has the proper equipment that can be installed where everybody can be on the same frequency as one big team instead of someone that is operating independently.”

Wallis said during Tuesday’s Local Emergency Planning Committee meeting, there was discussion about having fire chiefs’ meetings again. The meetings were held prior to the organization of the LEPC.

“Between Paul and Shane, they’ve said they’ve had great response,” Wallis said. “Good communication and good understanding across the county as far as things like this radio situation, training and basically trying to put all departments on the same sheet of music so everybody sees what’s going on, everybody understands what’s going on and it will be orchestrated through this meeting, down through all the fire chiefs, and that’s the only people invited to this meeting–all the fire chiefs.”

He said another need for organizing chiefs’ meetings again is because after the new communication equipment is installed, each truck will have to be checked to determine if the system is working correctly.

Walker said he has tested five radios and pagers, which all work–just sometimes not well.

“Just at varying degrees, static and so on,” Walker said. “If you’re on a cell phone down that hill, forget it. Cell phones don’t work down there. The big problem is any time you’re in front of a building.”

He said he and Ballou took the same type of radios being used by Garland and discovered they did not work while used in front of the department’s metal building. But they did work when used down the street.

Warren said a new tower is being erected in that area, and Walker said another new tower is to be installed in the Uniontown area.

“I think we’re making progress,” Ballou said. “This is a little bit of a setback, but in order to keep communication going, we’ll try to accommodate everyone.”

Gwen Romine, KSFFA Webmaster

Philip Henry Schirmer



Gwen Romine, KSFFA Webmaster

Larry “Bo” J. Baudoin



Gwen Romine, KSFFA Webmaster

Arlen Lee Gates



Gwen Romine, KSFFA Webmaster

Truck fire ties up traffic Tuesday

By Brian Dulle
Kansas First News – July 30, 2014


A spectacular fire tied up traffic during Tuesday’s evening commute just west of North Topeka.

A viewer captured footage of a truck fire and sent them to the newsroom just after 6 p.m.

It happened at 350 NE Highway 24 and firefighters took about 15 minutes to put out the fire.

No word on the cause, but Kansas First News was told nobody was injured.

Gwen Romine, KSFFA Webmaster

Fire destroys Marten’s hay baler

Onaga Herald – July 10, 2014
Submitted by Newz Group Clipping Service – July 30, 2014

Click on photo to view full-size image.

Click on photo to view full-size image.

Onaga firemen were called to the Onaga airport for a baler fire last Thursday evening. The baler, belonging to the Marten brothers, Brad, Tim and Mike, started smoking while baling brome hay west of the airport, at the northwest edge of Onaga. A bad bearing is blamed for the blaze that completely destroyed the baler. Luke Marten was not injured in the fire. Mike said he was home and rushed to the scene, helping unhook the tractor before it was lost as well. Firefighters unrolled the bale and let it burn while keeping the remaining hay safe.

Gwen Romine, KSFFA Webmaster