Archive for March, 2017

Chief Michael E. McDermed

Michael E. McDermed, 69 years old, Retired Fire Chief of the Atchison, Kansas Fire Department, passed away Thursday, March 30, 2017 at his home surrounded by his loving family.

Celebration of Life Services will be Wednesday, April 5, 2017 at 2:00 P.M. at the Atchison Event Center, 710 S. 9th Street, Atchison, KS. Visitation with the family will be Tuesday, April 4, 2017 from 6:00 P.M. until 8:00 P.M. at the Arensberg-Pruett Funeral Home. The family encourages dressing in bright colors or Hawaiian attire. Memorial contributions are suggested to the National Brain Tumor Society ( or the Michael McDermed Memorial Fund c/o City of Atchison.

Michael was born on April 26, 1947 in Topeka, Kansas the son of John and Minnie (Lipps) McDermed. He attended Franklin Elementary School in Atchison and graduated from Atchison High School in 1966. He was awarded numerous scholarships in the Arts and due to his athletic abilities in gymnastics received many athletic scholarships. He attended Kansas State University, participating in gymnastics, where he was an all-around champion.

He and the former Diane Kimmi were united in marriage on October 9, 1971 at St. Benedict’s Church in Atchison, Kansas with Fr. Roderic Giller, OSB as celebrant.

Prior to his employment with the Atchison Fire Department, Mike modeled for the Atchison Leather Products Company and served as an usher at the former Fox Theatre.

Mike began with the Atchison Fire Department on February 14, 1971 and was promoted to Fire Chief on June 1, 1981, where he served as Fire Chief for an unprecedented 35 years. He remained with the department until his retirement on June 17, 2016. Throughout his career he had several periods where he served as an interim City Manager.

He was a member of the National Association of Fire Chiefs, Kansas State Association of Fire Chiefs, and was an active participant in the Kansas League of Municipalities. He was an avid softball player in the Atchison community for many years. He enjoyed weekly trips to movie theatres to watch numerous different movies. Mike and Diane enjoyed their many years of traveling to Florida to spend time with their son and his family. He was also an avid sports fan of the New York Yankees and Dallas Cowboys. He was dearly loved by his many family friends and his co-workers.

Mike is survived by his wife of 45 years, Diane McDermed, of the couple’s home in Atchison, KS, a son, Brandon and his wife Dr. Jenna McDermed, Orlando, FL, two grandchildren, Elliet McDermed and Ronan McDermed, and a sister, Bev Crum, Parkville, MO.


The City of Atchison is remembering the life of longtime, former Fire Chief Mike McDermed.
McDermed died Thursday following a battle with brain cancer.
McDermed served the Atchison community for 45-years, with 35 of those spent as Fire Chief.
He retired last year due to his health issues.
In a press release issued by the City of Atchison Friday, Atchison Mayor Allen Reavis calls McDermed “an exceptional leader and devoted public servant,” adding that “he will be missed as a mentor and a role model.”
Along with his duties as Fire Chief, McDermed would serve as interim City Manager when that role needed to be filled due to an absence.
Funeral Services for McDermed are planned for Wednesday afternoon at 2:00 at the Atchison Event Center.
The family requests that guests wear Hawaiian, or bright colored clothing, at the celebration of McDermed’s life.
Atchison City Hall will be closed Wednesday afternoon to allow staff to attend the services.


Posted by Gwen Dorr Romine, KSFFA Webmaster
KSFFA’s Fire News Blog Home Page

School bus catches fire near W. 131st and High Drive in Leawood

FOX 4 News – March 31, 2017

Photo by Jason Reif

Photo by Sandra Condon

Photo by Sandra Condon


Firefighters responded to a school bus on fire Friday afternoon.

Around 3 p.m. a school bus reportedly caught fire at W. 131st and High Drive in Leawood. All children were able to safely get off the bus.

The bus became fully engulfed in flames before crews were able to extinguish the fire.

No injuries were reported.


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Junction City Fire Department battles out building structure fire on Spruce Street

Junction City Daily Union – March 21, 2017
Submitted by Newz Group – March 31, 2017

An out building caught fire in the early morning hours of Saturday at 207 East Spruce Street.

Junction City firefighters responded to the area at about 3:30 a.m. Saturday to battle a blaze in a small, aluminum out building behind the Marriot Hotel.

The building was on the opposite side of active railroad tracks from a hydrant, forcing crews to shut down all train traffic for the duration of the fire.

According to a press release from Junction City Fire Chief Terry Johnson, crews started with a defensive exterior attack, controlling the fire from the outside, before moving inside to fully extinguish the blaze.

The cause of the fire is unknown at this time, but Junction City Fire Captain Nabus was assigned to investigate.

According to the release, no utilities were involved and damage is estimated at $5,000.


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Grass fire starts as controlled burn

Cowley Courier Traveler – March 21, 2017
Submitted by Newz Group – March 31, 2017

Winfield police and fire departments responded to a grass fire Saturday afternoon at the Kansas Highway 360 bypass and Wheat Road.

The fire started when an attempted controlled burn in a small field on the south side of the bypass got out of control, according to Capt. Chad Mayberry with Winfield Fire/EMS.

The fire jumped the highway and burned on the north side of the road, coming close to ball fields at Black Creek Park. The fire led to heavy smoke on the highway, necessitating traffic control from Winfield police.

The Udall Fire Department was called in to help cover the Winfield fire station, as firefighters were responding to two grass fires at the same time, Mayberry said.

The firefighters were at the scene on K-360 for about an hour.


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Fort Scott brick company building burns

By Jason E. Silvers
Fort Scott Tribune – March 22, 2017
Submitted by Newz Group – March 31, 2017

Click on each photo to view full-size image.

An early Tuesday morning fire gutted an old brick building on North Hill Street that once operated as part of a brick plant.

Fort Scott city firefighters were called out just after 1 a.m. after receiving a report from a Bourbon County Sheriff’s Office deputy that a building in an area on North Hill Street was on fire, Fort Scott Deputy Fire Chief Dave Bruner said.

“We responded and once on scene we found a portion of the building fully engulfed,” Bruner said. “We called Scott Township (rural fire department) for assistance with extinguishing it. We were able to contain it to that portion.”

Bruner said the fire “did get into another area,” in one of the nearby buildings on the property that made up the old brick manufacturing plant, but were able to control it before it spread.

The brick building, which has sat vacant for many years, was still fully intact prior to the fire.

“The brick portion of the building sustained the major damage,” he said. “There was a roof collapse in that area.”

Bruner said the Office of the State Fire Marshal was contacted to assist the FSFD in determining a cause. While the fire is under investigation, Bruner said after working the scene, “it looks incendiary.”

The fire departments received assistance from the Fort Scott Police Department and BCSO, Bruner said.

“They stayed and helped control the scene for us,” he said.

The FSFD sent five trucks and nine personnel to the fire. Bruner said he did not have a total number of trucks and firefighters sent by Scott Township.

Firefighters had the fire under control by about 2:25 a.m. but did not clear the scene until about 9:30 a.m. Tuesday following routine checks and an on-scene investigation, Bruner said. Firefighters also returned to the scene later to check for hot spots.

Bruner said there were no reported injuries to firefighters or civilians. He said the property is now owned by East Wall Street Properties Company.

Robbie Forester, general manager of Velocity Tactics, an ammunition distributor in Fort Scott, said Tuesday “about four or five years ago,” East Wall Street Properties purchased the property where the old brick plant is located as part of a plan to buy properties for future redevelopment.

Forester said he was contacted at about 3 a.m. and visited the fire scene, where he talked with Fort Scott Fire Chief Paul Ballou.

“The plan is to clean up the area and make businesses,” he said. “There are some future plans but nothing set in stone as far as plans. we do want to resurrect some buildings.”

Forester said he was speaking on behalf of East Wall Street Properties and the fire has no effect on Velocity Tactics. He said East Wall Street Properties and Velocity Tactics are companies under the umbrella of Ward Kraft, Inc.

He said the loss of the brick building should not affect company plans for future cleanup and development. He said there is no set timeline or plans for improvements.

“Basically we’ll just tear it down and maybe some of the surrounding buildings that are damaged,” he said. “We will move forward with cleanup and in future years” create some activities for the public.

The old brick building was once part of the Western Shale Products company,a  brick plant that operated from 1888 to 1935.

The company was located on 15 acres at the north city limits bordered by three railroads, two of which serviced the plant.

At its peak, the company had six brick buildings and nine kilns. The plant produced building block and paving brick in rail car quantities distributed across the continent, including the Indianapolis Speedway and as far as the Panama Canal, according to information from the Historic Preservation Association of Bourbon County.

Don Miller, HPA member, said the company produced different thicknesses of brick for buildings, roads and sidewalks and much of the original brick seen on Fort Scott roads today came from Western Shale.

“It came out of there (the plant) by the millions,” he said.

Cable cars would run on an incline from a clay pit of the Western Shale Brick Company to the company’s plant delivering freshly-dug red clay. Rail car quantities of coal were brought in and burned to heat kilns and fire bricks, according to HPA information.

Arnold Schofield, HPA member, said although there were other small kilns that serviced the area at one point, the Western Shale company was the “main brick operation” during its time. The brick building destroyed in the Tuesday fire is one of “only two buildings left from that.”


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Truck loses tire and causes small grass fire

Oberlin Herald – March 22, 2017
Submitted by Newz Group – March 31, 2017

A small grass fire south of town Sunday caused by a truck which lost a wheel was put out quickly by the Decatur County Rural Fire Department.

The fire was reported at 1:05 p.m., Chief Bill Cathcart said, and volunteer firemen had it out in about half an hour. Since they weren’t sure what they would be facing, three vehicles including a pumper truck and two quick-attack trucks, and seven firefighters responded.

Chief Cathcart said that a front wheel came off a loaded truck belonging to Hoxie Tank Service out of Grinnell.

“He had a heck of a time keeping it under control,” the chief said. “It was a good thing nobody was coming from the other direction.”

The truck was southbound on U.S. 83 about three miles south of Oberlin, the chief said. It ended up in the opposite ditch and sparks from the lost wheel set some grass on fire.

The chief said that with no wind and plenty of help, the fire was handled with dispatch.


Posted by Gwen Dorr Romine, KSFFA Webmaster
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Seward County fire to talk to public about challenges

By Robert Pierce
Southwest Daily Times – March 31, 2017

With the recent round of grass fires hitting the area, Seward County officials are looking to address some problems concerning the county’s fire department.

Those concerns will be discussed through two upcoming town hall meetings, one on April 6 at the Activity Center in Liberal and the other on April 7 at the Kismet Pavilion.

Seward County Fire Chief Andrew Barkley said the format for the meetings will be similar to ones the county hosted last year.

“We’ve sent out 1,300 postcards to the rural residents who pay our fire tax,” he said. “A lot of residents, I don’t think, understand that we are not general fund funded. We are mill levied for a fire tax funded.”

Barkley said the primary purpose of the meetings is to educate county residents on where the fire department is at this time. He said the number of the department’s personnel has not changed much.

“We’re about 20, and we’ve always been about 20,” he said. “We were 20 when I got here, maybe 21, but they’ve always stayed around 20.”

The problem, though, Barkley said, is that the fire department operated in the 21st century is not the same as those operated in the 1970s and 1980s.

“The guys that are working during the day can’t get off work anymore,” he said. “The economy has changed. They can’t get off work to respond to calls, so during the daytime hours, you’re very limited on your responders. If it’s 5 o’clock in the morning, you’re limited on your responders because everybody’s getting up to go to work.”

In past days, volunteer firefighters could be found sitting at home waiting for pagers to go off to respond to fires, but Barkley said in today’s times, fires are no longer the first priority for volunteers.

“Their first priority is their job and their family,” he said. “Times have changed, and we have to change with that. We are going to talk about daytime staffing, and we are also going to talk about what it would take to staff this department with two guys in each station 24/7 and what the cost would be with that. The residents need to know where we’re at, what we’re doing and what the plan is, and when you give them the factual information, it eliminates all the rumors and the ridiculous stuff that’s being said out there.”

Though one of the stations of the Seward County Fire Department is housed in the same building as the Liberal Fire Department, Barkley said the county department is not affected by anyone living within city limits and not owning property in rural parts of the county.

“This is for people who own property in the county,” he said. “What we’re looking at is to explain to them what it would take to put guys in our station and how much it would cost. To put guys in our station during the daytime, 8 to 5 Monday through Friday, is a $30 bump at 11 percent on $100,000. To staff our county 24/7 with two guys on duty at each station round the clock, it would be about $110 bump at 11 percent per $100,000.”

Barkley said the amount of calls his department has received this year has gone up from just the latter half of 2016.

“In 2017, we’ve run more calls in the last three months than we had in six months of last year,” he said. “The other side to that is you get 24/7 guys in there. When you have a big fire like this, when your volunteers respond, you already have three trucks there. When your volunteers respond, you get three or four more trucks. Now, you have seven or eight trucks there. Right now, the three or four volunteers you get to respond is all you get during the day. Now, you’re talking about additional resources on top of that with full-time personnel in place.”

Barkley said extra personnel could affect insurance ratings for homeowners.

“When you have staff in place at your stations and you’re able to take a year of service and show your training hours, response times, you’re going to affect your ISO rating for the county,” he said.

Having more personnel, Barkley said, could guarantee response from firefighters and emergency medical units.

“If you live out northwest of Supreme Feeders and you call for an ambulance, you’re waiting for one from Liberal,” he said. “If our station is staffed, in 10, 15 minutes, they could be to you.”

Barkley said the fire department is not drowning because of call volume, but rather having to cover 642 square miles of county.

“We have one volunteer for the north station that’s available after 5 o’clock at night,” he said. “During the day, you have nobody there, so your nearest fire protection’s coming from Satanta and here.”

The recent round of grass fires will likewise be a topic at the town hall meetings, Barkley said.

“We’re going to recap what the guys have named the Black Monday fire, which is the Road 13 fire,” he said. “We’re going to recap the Arkalon fire.”

Barkley said unlike many departments who took more than a day to put out fires around the Sunflower State, his department was able to contain the Road 13 fire within three and a half hours – with a little assistance.

“That fire was burning a thousand acres an hour,” he said. “With the help of farmers and discs, we were able to stop it, and we had no help coming to us other than from Stevens and Haskell County. Everybody else, we put in requests to the state of Oklahoma, the state of Kansas and were denied by both due to no resources available because of all the fires.”

Above all else, Barkley said having more firefighters would allow Seward County to more efficiently fight fires.

“We have to be able to try to make a stand ourself, and we have to be able to handle ourselves for three or four hours,” he said. “We have to be able to do that to survive, and we can’t do that right now with two guys on duty here.”

Barkley also said some people get the title of fire chief confused with being a firefighter, and he said the job he currently holds entails so much more than that.

“My job includes getting us resources, weather reports, making sure our guys are safe, assignments out to each waive of responding companies, accountability of our personnel, what we’ve lost, where we’re at, how we’re jumping, who’s where, who’s what, where’s the water supply, how many trucks do we have,” he said. “I have to track all that.”

Overall, Barkley said his job is to make sure his firefighters are safe and accounted for, that assistance is available and watching weather reports for wind change.

“There is so much I have to do,” he said. “If I’m on a truck fighting fire, how can I do all that? I can’t.”

The recent rains and the potential for moisture this weekend have not eliminated the likelihood for grass fires for Barkley.

“I still walk on pins and needles,” he said. “We’re supposed to get some more rain Friday night, Saturday and Saturday night, and I am hoping we’ll green up really good.”

Barkley said some residents have called for a burn ban in the county, but with a controlled burn policy in place, that is not likely to happen.

“Our residents are really good about calling in to find out what the wind’s going to do and whether or not they should burn,” he said. “Going into a burn ban ties my hands, and we can’t let people burn off tumbleweeds or anything.”


Posted by Gwen Dorr Romine, KSFFA Webmaster
KSFFA’s Fire News Blog Home Page

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