‘It’s up to us’: Volunteer firefighters give it their all – and then some

By Michael Pearce
Wichita Eagle – March 7, 2017

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Lights often burn late in the decrepit 100-year-old building in Atlanta, Kan., population 194.

After long days at full-time jobs, Darren Grow and friends have been coming to the building about five nights per week since Christmas, trying to reconfigure a retired military vehicle into something they can use to fight fires.

“No way we could ever afford to buy something like that, ready to fight fires. It would be hundreds of thousands of dollars,” said Grow, volunteer fire chief for a region of Butler County. “We just have to figure out how to do things, ourselves, with whatever we’ve got.”

Some nights, Jim Unruh and others gathered in a similar building, smelling of the smoke from a fire they’d just spent hours subduing. Checking and repairing equipment had to be done before they could head home for showers.

“(Our equipment) has to be ready to go all the time. What if a call comes out for a (house) fire that night?” said Unruh, a volunteer fire chief based out of Marquette. “It’s up to us.”

About 90 percent of Kansas is protected by volunteer fire departments.

Eric Ward, Kansas Forest Service fire specialist, doubts most Kansans know the challenge volunteer firefighters face or how much they offer.

“We’ve probably got around 16,000 firefighters in Kansas, but at least 13,000 of them are volunteers,” Ward said. “That’s a lot of people missing their kid’s ball games, leaving just as they’ve sat down for Christmas dinner or walking out of church because their pager’s gone off. It’s not just time fighting fires, either. There’s such a huge commitment to time behind the scenes.”

Kansas has more than 600 fire departments. Only about 30 of those – all in communities with populations of 10,000 or more – have full-time paid staff.

The rest are groups like those led by Grow and Unruh.

Posted by Gwen Dorr Romine, KSFFA Webmaster
http://www.ksffa.com
KSFFA’s Fire News Blog Home Page

2 Responses to “‘It’s up to us’: Volunteer firefighters give it their all – and then some”


  1. 1 Marilyn Rogers Music March 9, 2017 at 7:44 am

    Thank you – Thank you – Thank you
    To all volunteer first responders or trained first responders !
    Today I especially thank the guys who fight the fire !!!! Prayers for your safety and strength to do what needs to be done

    Like

  2. 2 Anonymous March 8, 2017 at 1:56 pm

    Thanks for all the volenteer firefighters !

    Like


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