Archive for January, 2014

Pittsburg Police and Fire Equipment Upgrades

By Bryan McLoone
Four States – January 31, 2014

Video

Two safety departments in Pittsburg will be making equipment and personnel upgrades with more money coming to their budget. The city of Pittsburg started collecting a public safety sales tax on January 1st. Now, city leaders hope to use the half-cent sales tax to buy a new truck and equipment for the fire department. The police department is looking to hire more officers to their staff. Pittsburg Fire Chief Mike Simons says the additional funds will allow both departments to be better in emergency situations.

“It will benefit the community as a whole because it’s going to increase our abilities to, to respond in a fast and safe manner, and to assist the community in a quicker way,” said Mike Simons, Pittsburg Fire Chief.

Pittsburg City Manager Daron Hall says the sales tax will bring in an estimated $1.8 million a year for the departments.

Gwen Romine, KSFFA Webmaster

Group looks to form new fire district

By Alan Rusch
Ellsworth County Independent Reporter – January 30, 2014
Submitted by Newz Group Clipping Service – January 31, 2014

Ellsworth County could soon have a third fire district, if a January 16 discussion at the Holyrood Fire Department bears fruit.

The new district would potentially include the cities of Holyrood and Lorraine, plus Palacky, Green Garden and Valley townships.

The new fire district has to be formally initiated by July 1, said Carey Hipp, Holyrood City attorney.

“That means before that, if you are a city, you have to take special action in order to actually go to the county commissioners for approval,” she said. “You have to pass a resolution that says we want to take part in this.”

The townships would have to make a similar recommendation.

Hipp said she’s concerned if a new district is formed by July 1, can it get a board of trustees selected and a budget written and turned in to Ellsworth County clerk Jan Andrews by August 1, the county’s deadline for budget submissions. Budgets need to be approved by the county commissioners by August 10 and certified by the end of August.

“It would be new territory pretty much for everyone in this process,” she noted. “There are reasons why you guys want to hand together, obviously, to try to get the biggest bang for everyone’s buck.”

With regards to funding, Hipp said the best case scenario would see money flowing into the new fire district in January 2015. But it could be a year later than that.

“Really, I think that (a new district) might be the best route,” said Lorraine City Council member. “With the amount of area that you have, and the townships you have, I think that might be the fairest way for all of us to support it evenly.”

“I think our board is in agreement to go ahead and proceed with looking into the fire district,” said Green Garden Township trustee Brent Rolfs.

“The discussion has been brought up at city council meetings, but there has been nothing official,” said Mayor Kenny Schepmann of Holyrood.

Before a motion is put forth and passed by the city council, Schepmann said he would first like to get legal advice from Hipp on what Holyrood’s obligations and liabilities would be if a fire district were established.

“I think the city council is in favor of something like this, but before it’s made official, I’m sure there are some answers to questions we’d like to have before that,” Shepmann said.

Susan Thornton of the Lorraine Fire Department voiced concerns of where monies being raised by her department in building a new fire station in Lorraine would go if the new district were formed.

“That’s something that would have to be discussed,” said Paul J. Kasper, Lorraine City Attorney. “I don’t think anyone in this room wants anyone else to feel like they are being taken advantage of or getting ripped off for doing this.”

“We’re for it if it is going to better our fire department,” Thornton said.

“I really don’t know how the equipment part is going to go–I don’t understand that yet,” Mark Breford, Holyrood Fire Chief, said. “But as far as the buildings, I think the ownership will still be through the City of Holyrood, and then the fire district would pay a rent every month for the use of this building, and the same way for the City of Lorraine.”

Palacky Township trustee Ernie Jezek said he was concerned about the investment Palacky and Valley townships share in equipment, and also how future funding will take place.

“But as far as doing the fire district, we’d be acceptable to that,” he said.

“As far as Valley Township goes, I think were all for it,” said trustee Tony Heitschmidt. “We’ve got a lot invested right now–it’s just how that investment works out in the agreement.”

Hipp said the formation of a new fire district leaves a lot of discretion for those involved to figure out what will best suit them in the process.

“I, obviously, don’t have any expertise in fire, safety, and providing services, so I’m going to leave that up to you guys,” she said.

Hipp noted, however, there are several legal statutes that deal with how a fire district is formed and operated.

“The county commissioners really are in control of it,” she said.

Hipp suggested talking with commissioners to see if they approve of forming the new fire district, and then ask them to initiate the district themselves.

“I think they do have some positive experiences with fire districts, and I think they are probably open to it,” she said.

If the commissioners are not in favor of initiating the start of a new fire district, Hipp said a petition process must be completed.

“That becomes a little bit more complicated, because you have to get signatures, you have to trace those signatures to landowners, maps, and so forth, so it’s more time, obviously,” she said.

If the county commissioners say they are going to initiate a new fire district, Hipp said they would adopt a resolution stating they think it is advisable.

The resolution would then be published in the official county newspaper, and a hearing date set.

“Any taxpayer or elector residing in the county can be heard at that meeting,” Hipp said.

The commissioners then will determine whether or not to move forward. If they do, they pass a resolution, name the district, and set the boundaries. That resolution also has to be published.

Hipp said cities interested in joining the fire district have to publish a notice of intent to the public 20 days before a public meeting on the matter stating they are considering doing so.

“At the meeting they will discuss it and determine whether they want to do it or not,” she said.

The cities will then pass a resolution asking the county commissioners if they can be included in the fire district.

“Then the county commissioners can cover it at any of their meetings,” Hipp said.

If commissioners establish a fire district, Hipp said the next step would be to establish a district board of trustees.

“The statues really say the board of county commissioners will oversee, supervise and control the fire district when it’s formed,” she said. They do have the ability to pass those responsibilities on to a board of trustees.”

The commission decides who will sit on that board of trustees, usually three to nine members.

Hipp said within 60 days after the creation of the new fire district, a governing body composed of three to five members must be appointed. These members all have to be residents of the fire district area for three years preceding their appointments.

“Each person would hold office for three years, and the first ones appointed will be in staggered terms,” she said. County commissioners or the board of trustees will choose replacements to the governing body.

Hipp said the governing body has the power to enter into contracts, buy and sell property, issue bonds, pay compensation, and insure volunteers.

“Essentially, your fire department answers at some point to the city council,” Kasper said. “There already essentially is a board of directors for the fire department, and that is the city council. It (the board of directors) is essentially a city council for the fire district. They aren’t involved in the day-to-day operations, but they do review the overall operations if there are issues.”

Kasper said it is important to keep in mind that anytime a new fire district is created, those taking part lose some local control.

“Right now Holyrood has to make its own decisions, Lorraine has to make its own decisions, and the townships can make their own decisions, so, obviously, there is going to have to be more cooperation and working together to make these decisions,” he said. “We encourage communication–it has to actually work, and not just look good on a budget.”

“I don’t know what time frame you guys are thinking, but if you want to move ahead right away, we need to get our cities on board, make sure all the townships are on board officially and then get to the county commissioners and get that part done so we can move on to the board of trustees, governing body and, eventually, budget,” she said.

Hipp said the fire district can generally levy up to five mills, but could levy more under certain situations. If Holyrood, Lorraine and the three townships all became part of the district, one mill would be able to generate an estimated $26,000 per year.

Hipp will attend the January 21 county commission meeting and let officials know a group is discussing formation of a new fire district.

The next meeting of the group will be at 7:30 p.m. Monday, Feb. 10, at the Holyrood Fire Department.

Gwen Romine, KSFFA Webmaster

 

 

Firefighters from four counties battle Sunday grass fire

By Alan Rusch
Ellsworth County Independent Reporter – January 30, 2014
Submitted by Newz Group Clipping Service – January 31, 2014

Howling north winds of more than 60 miles per hour kept firefighters from four counties busy for almost four hours battling a grass fire late Sunday afternoon southeast of Wilson.

Firefighters from Wilson, Holyrood, Ellsworth, Kanopolis, Bunker Hill, Dorrance, and Sylvan Grove, Lucas, and Claflin were paged at 5:50 p.m. to a fire in a creek between Avenues L and M. Winds pushed the fire north to south along fence rows and pasture ground nearly two miles before it was brought under control just north of Avenue N.

“I’ve never seen a fire move that fast in my life,” Holyrood Fire Chief Mark Breford said.

“It was rolling,” Ellsworth Fire Chief Bob Kepka added.

Because of blowing dust and near zero visibility, fire crews had difficulty getting to the scene. In addition, temperatures in the 50s quickly dropped into the 30s as the cold front worked its way through the state.

Wilson Fire Chief Larry Langerman said the cause of the fire remains undetermined. He confirmed, however, there were no electrical powerlines nearby.

“I was amazed they got that thing under control the way the wind was blowing,” said Ellsworth County commissioner Al Oller, who lives in the area.

The fire was the second page of the day for Ellsworth firefighters. At 6 p.m., they responded to an area north of the Ellsworth Correctional Facility’s east unit where the high winds brought down an electrical transformer and destroyed 18 individually-owned golf cart sheds near the driving range at the Ellsworth Golf Course.

According to Mark Lein, Ellsworth superintendent for Western Cooperative Electric Association, one of the sheds blew over and knocked down the main transformer. As a result, one-third of Ellsworth–from south of Eighth Street to St. Louis Street east to Blake Street, including the downtown area–was plunged into darkness for 45 minutes until repairs could be made.

Gwen Romine, KSFFA Webmaster

Rollover accident Friday

Greeley County Republican – January 22, 2014
Submitted by Newz Group Clipping Service – January 31, 2014

On Friday, January 17, at about 1:47 p.m. the Greeley County Sheriff’s office received a 911 call reporting a rollover accident at the curves on K27 south of Tribune. The Greeley County EMS, Fire Department and Sheriff’s units responded.

The Fire rescue units found a 2008 Dodge Pickup had left the road and flipped over several times. The driver, Troy Barnett, age 60, of Elkhart, Kansas was trapped inside of the vehicle. Fire Chief Dustyn Smith related that the Jaws of Life and airbags were used to cut the top of the vehicle to enable Burnett to be removed from the vehicle. Barnett was transported to the Greeley County Hospital where he was treated. Then transferred to St. Catherine Hospital in Garden City.

The investigation revealed that Barnett was North Bound on K27, on his way to a ball game in Sharon Springs when his tires fell off of the shoulder, the vehicle swerved back onto the highway crossing the center line and then went into the east ditch and rolled several times coming to a rest on its side. Barnett was wearing his seat belt at the time of the accident. The Sheriff’s office continues to investigate the accident to determine to what extent alcohol contributed to the accident. Charges are possible upon the receipt of blood test results.

–Mark Rine, Sheriff, Greeley County Kansas

Gwen Romine, KSFFA Webmaster

Wesley J. Wilson, Jr.

Obituary

Feeling the weight on firefighters’ shoulders

By Clinton Dick
Ottawa Herald – January 31, 2014

Video

(Editor’s note: The following is a first-person report of Herald Staff Writer Clinton Dick’s recent visit with colleague Abby Eckel to the Ottawa Fire Department. ]

Capt. Tim Matthias has saved many people in his nearly 24 years as a firefighter, but it’s those he wasn’t able to rescue who stick out in his mind, he said.

“I remember the ones we save, but I really remember the ones we didn’t,” Matthias, with the Ottawa Fire Department, said. “In my time, we’ve had 13 fire fatalities that I’ve been a part of. Those are the ones I think about.”

The life of a firefighter isn’t easy, and I got a little taste of that Tuesday morning at the Ottawa Fire Department, 720 W. 2nd St., Ottawa. Matthias, as well as Lt. Shawn Dillon, took Abby Eckel, Herald staff writer, and I on a tour of the station, built in 1973, and put us in full firefighter equipment for some firsthand experience of what it feels like inside the dense protective gear.

As a 140-pound guy, putting on more than 50 pounds of protective equipment felt more like doubling my body weight. Firefighters are trained to put on their protective gear, which includes pants, a coat, hat, a 30-pound air tank that straps around the shoulders and an air mask, in one minute and 45 seconds to go out on a call. Dillon performed this task at the end of our tour in an impressive one minute and 28 seconds. I did not fair quite as well.

Training is of utmost importance to a firefighter, and even when someone has mastered everything, training doesn’t end.

“We don’t fight fires every day,” Matthias said. “We don’t go out to car crashes every day, so it is important to train to keep up with your skills. We try to train two to three hours a day. A typical training day would be some kind of classroom setting for 30 to 45 minutes, and then, weather permitting, we’ll go outside. We have a drill tower out back we run some drills on.

“We do a lot of medical training,” he said. “We do fire training consisting of reviewing buildings, putting our gear on for time, pulling hose, ladders … stuff that we do on a pretty consistent basis, but you can always get better.”

Firefighters also train in specialty rescue areas — rope, water and confined space — where they spend considerable time, Matthias said.

TACKLING THE TRAINING

Eckel and I went through some training drills ourselves, including crawling on all fours wearing the protective gear, putting on and using an air mask hooked up to the air tank, and attempting to pick up a hydraulic cutter used to cut into vehicles at wrecks. Thanks to my skinny arms, I could barely hoist the 50-pound metal cutter above my waist in the protective gear, while Dillon was able to swing it over his shoulder with relative ease. Practice does make perfect.

With 20 full-time firefighters and seven to eight volunteers at the Ottawa Fire Department, down time is important too, even when everybody is almost always doing something.

“We stay busy,” Matthias said. “After 5 p.m., it is kind of our time. A lot of guys are going back to school right now. Myself included, we’ve probably got three, four, five guys taking college courses trying to do some college work. Everybody’s doing something.”

When a call comes in, Matthias’s captain duties are to make sure everyone, including his firefighters, are safe, he said.

“On a call, my initial duties are to make sure we get there safely, make sure we know where we are going and that we have enough resources,” he said. “Once we get there, I make sure the scene is safe and that I’m putting my people in the safest situation I can. Ultimately, my overall job is to get my firefighters home to their families. I take that to heart.”

On average, the Ottawa department goes out on calls six to seven times per day, Matthias said. Whenever a fire is reported, a firefighter’s battle isn’t always just with the flames, but with nerves.

“People who say they’ve never been scared going into a fire have either A) never fought in a fire or B) aren’t telling the truth,” Matthias said.

NOT ALL PHYSICAL

The job is 90 percent mental, Matthias said, and sometimes the physical and psychological wear and tear of fighting fires can be soothed not only by talking to co-workers, but by having a loving family outside the station, Matthias said.

“Of course you’ve got to have a strong support group at home,” he said. “You try not to take [the job] home, but you do, and I think most of us are lucky to have that support. As a captain, my job is to look for those signs of stress and all that comes with those types of calls.”

Family time might be very important to firefighters, as with any profession, but part of the job also is realizing that a firefighter spends a lot of time away from home. Matthias, who has been a firefighter for more than two decades — 17 years with the Ottawa department — said his family understands.

“Being a firefighter in a career department, you have the opportunity to be off [of the job] because you work kind of an odd shift, but you do miss a lot,” he said. “If you have to work Christmas, then you work it … all those birthdays, anniversaries and stuff. Your family understands that. Of course after 20 some years, that is kind of the norm at our house.”

While I didn’t fight any fires, I was able to glimpse why Matthias is connected to his work. His co-workers are his favorite part of the job — they’re what make it all worthwhile, he said.

“You get into this job and you have to trust the person on your left, and on your right, and the person in front of you and the person in back. So I think the best thing for me is the people I work with and have worked with through the years,” Matthias said. “Very, very seldom do I come to work not wanting to come to work. I’m fortunate in that way because a lot of people aren’t as fortunate as I am, I guess.

“This is always what I’ve wanted to do,” he said. “Somebody asked me the other day, ‘What are you going to do when you retire?’ I don’t know. I’ve always been a firefighter and I always wanted to be a firefighter, so I guess I’m living the dream. The saddest day for me is the day I’ll have to retire.”

Gwen Romine, KSFFA Webmaster

Grass fire contained

By Mark McCoy
Ellsworth County Independent Reporter – January 31, 2014

Rick Seiler (driving) and Dave Rankin fight a small grass fire Thursday afternoon northwest of Ellsworth.

Rick Seiler (driving) and Dave Rankin fight a small grass fire Thursday afternoon northwest of Ellsworth.

Three units of the Ellsworth Fire Department responded to a grass fire Thursday afternoon at 12th Road and Ave H northwest of Ellsworth.

The fire was called in at 1:26 p.m. and the firefighters had the fire extinguished by 1:49 p.m.

The west ditch of 12th road and the south ditch of Ave H were burned in the fire.

Gwen Romine, KSFFA Webmaster