Archive for August, 2017

Structure fire reported

By Zach Hacker
Emporia Gazette – August 31, 2017

Photos by Zach Hacker

There were no injuries but a home was damaged extensively Thursday morning when a structure fire broke out south of Emporia.

Emporia Fire Department Battalion Chief Steve Howe said the initial call came in to the station at 6:26 a.m. reporting a structure fire at 1032 Road 140 — about a mile and a half south of Emporia.

“When I arrived there was smoke coming out around the eaves around the second floor,” Howe said. “When the engine got here and some of our guys got inside the home, they found fire on the first floor and in the basement.”

The lone occupant of the home was able to escape without injury when he kicked out a window air conditioning unit and climbed out.

Firefighters from Emporia, Olpe, Americus and Hartford battled the blaze for about an hour before Howe said the fire was believed to be out. Ladders were used to access the second floor and attic of the two-story farmhouse. At around 7:30 a.m., however, there were still emergency units doing a sweep of the home to look for any hot spots. Howe said once the house was deemed clear, the house would be allowed to air out for a while before the official investigation into the cause got underway.

“In these old, old farmhouses, there are a lot of places for the fire to kind of hide out,” Howe said.


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Wamego gets better fire rating

By Mark Portell, MAP News Service
Wamego Times – August 24, 2017
Submitted by Newz Group – August 31, 2017

Wamego’s ISO rating will be lowered from 4 to 3, effective November 1, Fire Chief Phil Stultz told Wamego City of Commissioners last Tuesday.

The lower rating is the result of the most recent evaluation by the Insurance Service Organization (ISO) and is likely to result in lower fire insurance premiums, especially for commercial and industrial businesses in the community, according to Stultz.

“That’s the top 11 percent in the nation,” Stultz said of the new rating. “That’s very good for Wamego, Kansas.”

Of the 46,000 communities and fire districts nationwide rated by the organization, only 4,974 (11 percent) have a rating of 3 or lower, Stultz said. Only six percent of the communities in Kansas have earned a rating of 3 or less. The best rating offered by the ISO is 1.

The Insurance Service Organization bases the quality of a community’s fire protection on three categories: water availability, the local fire department, and communications.

The new aerial ladder truck purchased recently by the city was the primary driver of Wamego’s lower ISO rating, according to Stultz. With a boom reach of more than 100 feet, the fire department now has the capability to reach the top of any structure in town.

“The amount of money that will be saved on insurance premiums will pay for that truck,” Stultz said. Lower premiums could also be an attraction to new business, he added.

Stultz said he didn’t agree with everything in the ISO evaluation, but said there were steps the city could take to lower the rating even further.

“I think we can get a 2,” Stultz said. “We’ll have to work at it a little bit, but I think we can get a 2.”

Commissioners thanked Stultz and the Wamego Fire Department for their community service.

“This is volunteerism at its best in Wamego, Kansas and it is appreciated,” said Mayor Bill Ditto.


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New radio system goes live

By Vincent Marshall
Dodge City Globe – August 31, 2017

A much needed upgrade was done to the radio system for Ford County that covers Dodge City police, fire, public works and Ford County sheriff, fire and road and bridge.

The upgrade pushes the current radio system to 800 megahertz that makes radio communication clearer, increasing the coverage capacity.

“We have threes sites that we put in place with a partnership to the state’s system that is run by Kansas Department of Transportation,” Ford County Communications director Elliot Linke said. “That are located in Bucklin, Spearville and south Dodge City as part of a partnership with KDOT.

“They had the best system in place and we were able to add onto it.”

The project was $3.6 million but because it became a partnership with the state, the county was able to save $8 million.

One of the key reasons for the upgrade was safety for the community.

For example, when an officer had to enter Walmart and was in the back of the store, that officer would not be able to communicate on their handheld radio.

This upgrade fixes that.

Not only does it fix in town communication but also makes it to where communication can be done throughout the state.

“We had a jailer that was transporting an inmate and was able to reach us from 90 miles away,” Linke said. “It is that good.”

The upgrade also puts the county in the driver seat when looking towards the future.

Currently the new radios come fire resistant as well as with a club for fire units.

Within 2 years, Linke said, fire units will be equipped with Blue Tooth radios put into the face pieces for fire fighters.

“That way they can talk to each other more clearly.”

The system will also become equipped with GPS for law enforcement vehicles and handhelds.

“Map units using the radios will assist us in assigning calls to the closest officer,” Linke said. “If a call comes in near Bucklin, we will be able to see which officer is closest to dispatch them.

“And if they get out of the car on say a foot chase, we will be able to track them through their handheld.

“The best part is that it will be all on one system.

“It became how could we do more with less. We didn’t want to create bloat and wanted to be able to optimize the existing staff to simplify tasks.

“We will be creating a data sharing and transferring program through our CAD that will cut down on manually required transmission of data.

“It is forward thinking and puts us ahead of where technology is heading.”

Ford County Sheriff Bill Carr added, “I firmly believe this new communications system will make Ford County a safer community for both citizens and all first responders. Thank you to everyone involved in bringing this project from concept to reality.

“The new 800 MHz system has been designed with the capacity to meet the diverse needs of the users with one compatible radio network. It will also provide sufficient capacity to meet the growth needs of Ford County; it will provide the coverage capabilities essential to public safety/services; it has a high likelihood of surviving a natural disaster for the delivery of reliable service and it will provide direct communications between multiple jurisdictions to better meet mutual response needs during single incidents or during a disaster.”

Regarding the radios, Dodge City Police Deputy Chief Jerad Goertzen said, “This new system is more reliable. We have the ability to transmit more consistently and accurately.

“There were many safety concerns with the old system with not being able to transmit.

“The new system and radios have many features that make the officers and public safer.”


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Fire chiefs want county reserves for radios

By Jason Tidd
Marion County Record – August 31, 2017

Now that word is out of a possible $16 million cash in county coffers, the first group asking for a piece of the pie — county fire districts — popped up at Monday’s commission meeting.

Lincolnville fire chief Les Kaiser joined two other chiefs to ask for a portion of the reserves to pay for new 800 MHz radios.

“We’re having to scrimp and scrape to do the radios,” Kaiser said.

“When the people see the unencumbered funds in the paper,” he continued, “the comments about it just being south of $16 million, there’s a lot of questions that come to me, like ‘Why isn’t the county helping out?’”

Kaiser said the countywide project has a $600,000 price tag over a two-year lease-purchase program with the first payment due in September 2018.

“That would be $300,000 a year, which is, compared to what is supposedly there, not very much,” Kaiser said. “This is a project that is needed.”

Kaiser appealed to commission chairman Randy Dallke, reminding him of his volunteer firefighting based out of Peabody.

“You know what the radio situation is like in the county,” he said. “We’ve got a lot of dead zones. The 800 MHz radio will make a difference. We’ve tested them, we’ve played with them. It is definitely a necessity.”

Kaiser said firefighters may not receive a Department of Agriculture grant that was hoped for.

He called the amount needed for the radio project a “drop in the bucket” compared to the reported amount of cash reserves.

“With the money that’s there, why do we have to do this?” Kaiser asked commissioners. “We’re forcing the people to come up with the dollars to keep the people in the county safe, to be able to respond to emergencies, to keep the responders safe.”

Dallke and county clerk Tina Spencer suggested the reported amount of cash reserves may not be accurate.

Last week, Randy Collett, Marion economic development director, and Anthony Roy, executive director of Hillsboro Development Corporation, questioned raising taxes while holding large cash balances.

They said the county has just shy of $16 million in unencumbered cash reserves, two to four times what would be a typical amount.

At the time, no commissioners or county officials challenged their statistics.

At Monday’s meeting, Spencer said she will prepare a sheet that addresses cash reserves for the next meeting.

“Some of these things that are being presented like free money, it’s not free money that’s not already committed,” Spencer said. “I think what would be appropriate is to come up with some information for folks so you have a more true picture of what it looks like.”

Commissioners added to the cash reserve earlier in the meeting when they transferred $87,470.23 from the oil and gas depletion fund to the general fund. The resolution said commissioners desired to use the funds for tax relief.

Kaiser offered another potential funding solution for the fire radios — the jail sales tax.

The half-cent sales tax will likely pay off the jail by early next year, which Kaiser said would give time to renew the tax for the first lease-purchase payment.

“In theory, would that be possible to put it to a vote of the public and let the public make a decision?” Kaiser asked.

“That’s a possibility of doing something like that,” Dallke responded. “We’ve also got some other building plans we’re looking at.”


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Changes in fire, EMS response should improve service

By John Green
Hutchinson News – August 31, 2017

Hutchinson Fire and Reno County EMS officials have begun implementing changes on how emergency responders react to local fire and medical calls, potentially upgrading emergency medical care while lowering the risk of the response itself.

The leadership of both agencies has changed in the past year, and through regular joint meetings, officials have identified multiple areas for improvement, reported EMS Chief Terry David.

Medical response

For example, under city policy, to be a Hutchinson firefighter requires training as an emergency medical technician.

Yet, said David and Hutchinson Fire Chief Steve Beer, local firefighters have not been authorized to use basic EMT skills on emergency calls for some time.

Beer, who arrived in February from Wisconsin, was not sure why the restrictions were in place, but said for most firefighters their medical certifications have now expired.

“Most are EMTs, which is the base level for assisting first responders,” Beer said.

As the department recertifies individual firefighters, the responders will now be allowed to practice skills authorized by their license, such as administering a blood test for a diabetic or someone who is unconscious, or administering certain drugs or other treatments.

“I think our goal is by the end of this year to get people trained and get the additional skills,” Beer said. “As they train on each skill, we will implement it into the fire department.”

The practice also requires implementing treatment protocols that are uniform for all first aid providers, which a medical control officer develops and monitors.

Besides uniform treatment processes, they also need unvarying equipment, “to make sure our equipment matches (what’s used by) paramedics,” Beer said.

“The goal is to allow our firefighters to do everything the state allows under their training for an EMT, skill-wise, and to continue to work with a great Reno County EMS and their paramedics, to assist them and work together to get the best outcome we can.”

Running hot

Another policy change both departments are working to implement will allow the first unit arriving on a scene to downgrade the response of other units, depending on what is found.

“We triage quicker and downgrade quicker,” David told the Reno County Commission earlier this week. “We are doing that now and it’s working really well.”

For example, he said, if fire and ambulance are responding on a drug overdose call, if the first unit finds the patient is stable “and triage is code green,” meaning non-emergency, the responder can notify other responding units they don’t need to run with lights and siren or they may return to their station.

“We’ve sort of being doing it the last week and a half, but it goes into effect Sept. 1,” Beer said. “If fire or EMS is on the scene first, whichever unit, if it turns out to be a minor issue, we can call the ambulance and say downgrade, no emergency response is required, and vice-versa.”

The goal of the change, Beers said, is to reduce the risk of emergency response itself.

“If you look throughout the country daily, one of the most dangerous things is driving to an emergency scene,” he said. “Every day there are accidents across the country involving fire trucks or ambulances. It is a very high-risk operation.”

Fire units have been practicing the new protocol internally for a few weeks. Before even responding, fire commanders are seeking more information from dispatchers to determine if it is necessary to respond to the call as an emergency.

“If we have a burn complaint that’s in a backyard, we don’t run hot,” Beers said.

Eventually, Beers said, the goal is to have dispatchers able to triage calls to determine the level of response.

Added services

For the first time, David said, Reno County EMS will soon begin automatically sending an ambulance on all working structure fires.

The purpose is to provide medical observation and rehabilitation services for firefighters.

“The fire department does most of their own rehab,” David said. “If there are specific things, like someone’s blood pressure is at a certain level, they have to sit out, or if it reaches another level, they’re done and can’t go back in. We want to work side-by-side to keep our firefighters healthy.”

Both agencies will also be providing more staff during this year’s Kansas State Fair.

“There will be a couple of differences,” David said. “We’ll have a daily meeting with law enforcement and the Kansas Highway Patrol, to do a daily incident action plan. We’ll use FEMA forms for medical calls, and tell everyone who is working and outline duties for the day.”

“From our perspective, and the SO and KHP, we have a duty to look at what has happened elsewhere, if a ride malfunctioned or some ugly event that caused injury, and to talk about and look at whether we have an action plan on a daily basis.”

EMS officials will also meet with the Fair Board during the fair for the first time, he said.

Besides providing medical backup throughout the event, EMS will staff the first aid booth, David said.

“Last year we transported 55 people off the fairgrounds,” he said. “They can 300 to 400 people in first aid. We’ll split it up, to have paramedics as well as two roving EMTs on the fairgrounds.”

The fire department too, Beer said, will have two personnel on the grounds each day of the Fair in a utility vehicle.

“If there’s a fire situation, they’ll be first on the scene, and they can assist with medical calls or any other issues, such as lost kids,” Beer said. “With 60,000 people there on a weekend, it’s like a small city in a few blocks. It’s important that we’re prepared to handle any type situation.”

Reno County EMS is also working to re-implement a training reserve program, David advised the commission, to allow an EMT to ride as a third person with paramedics and, after passing an orientation, help the department with standby services, such as at football games.

“We currently have 208 EMTs in Reno County certified at the state level,” David said. “We’ll look at 10 or 12 initially for reserves. There will be an application process and orientation process and then we will assign them a training officer. It will be totally volunteer.”


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Kansas swift water rescue teams are headed to Texas

Hays Post – August 31, 2017

Kansas is sending swift water rescue teams/search and rescue teams to support Texas in response to Hurricane Harvey.

One Type I and three Type II swiftwater/flood rescue teams with hard-bottom, air boats, and inflatable boats with personnel will be sent from the Kansas Fire Marshal’s Office, Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism, Derby Fire Department, Chanute Fire Department, Derby Fire Department, Hutchinson Fire Department, South Hutchinson Police Department, Manhattan Fire Department, Mission Township Fire Department, Neodesha Fire Department, Newton Fire Department/EMS, Parsons Fire Department, Pittsburg Fire Department, Salina Fire Department, Saline County Sheriff’s Office, Sedgwick County Fire Department, Shawnee Fire Department, and Winfield Fire Department.

The teams will conduct search and rescue operations. Their objectives will be: To Search for and rescue individuals, provide basic life support (BLS) medical care, transport humans and animals to the nearest location for secondary air or land transport, provides shore-based and boat-based water rescue, provide animal rescues, and support helicopter and urban search and rescue in water environments.

The teams started deployment Wednesday night and some will deploy Thursday.


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Woman taken to hospital following 3-vehicle crash

By Erin Mathews
Salina Journal – August 30, 2017

Photo by Tom Dorsey

A woman was transported to Salina Regional Health Center Wednesday after her silver Jeep collided with a white Dodge pickup truck at the intersection of Crawford and Lewis streets, a police department spokesman said.

Sgt. Brent Rupert said the Jeep proceeded north across the intersection after stopping on Lewis Street and rolled onto its side after being struck by the pickup headed west on Crawford at 11:37 a.m. He said the Jeep’s driver would be cited for failure to yield.

The Jeep also struck a blue Dodge Durango that was waiting to turn at the intersection as it rolled, Rupert said.

The driver of the Jeep had to be extricated from the vehicle and was being transported to the hospital by private vehicle, Rupert said. He said the other two drivers involved were not injured.

Rupert did not immediately have information about the identities of those in the wreck.


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