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Firefighter killed in accident

KAKE – March 29, 2017

One driver was killed and another injured Wednesday when a pickup truck and car collided in Gray County.

The Kansas Highway Patrol reports Richard Hixon of Ensign, 27, was driving east on U.S. 56 toward Ensign around 11:45 a.m. The pickup entered his lane while attempting to pass a tractor-trailer three miles west of town. The vehicles may have hit head-on.

Hixon was declared dead at Western Plains Medical Complex in Dodge City. The pickup driver from Satanta also was taken there with critical injuries. Three other people in the pickup, including two small children, were not injured.


Posted by Gwen Dorr Romine, KSFFA Webmaster
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Need for radios causing headaches for rural fire chiefs

By Phyllis Zorn
Peabody Gazette Bulletin – March 29, 2017

Rural fire districts are grappling with how they will come up with money to buy 800 MHz radios they will soon be required to carry.

Firefighters can neither afford the radios nor ignore the need to buy them.

At a recent fire, Lost Springs fire chief Brad Pagenkopf saw a group of his firefighters threatened by flames sneaking up behind them. He tried to radio them to tell them about the threat, but they could not hear him. Luckily, the firefighters saw the threat and got out of harm’s way, but it brought home to Pagenkopf the importance of communication.

“We’re facing a situation where it’s our firefighters’ safety if we can’t communicate,” Pagenkopf said. “Are we going to have to impose a sales tax to protect our volunteer firefighters? Or is the county going to come up with a solution?”

Recent commitments by Marion and the county show the costs for new radios could be as high as $1,650 for portable units and $2,200 for vehicle units.

Rural fire departments in the county are trying to figure out where to go from here and fire chiefs are scratching their heads.

“Other than going broke, we don’t know,” Pagenkopf said. “We’ve been looking into grants and the chances of being awarded a grant are slimmer than winning the lottery.”

Several other fire chiefs said they are researching grant information.

“I wish I had an answer for you,” Lincolnville fire district chief Lester Kaiser said. “I expect we’ll apply for some kind of grant.”

Kaiser said imposing a sales tax is being considered as well.

Goessel fire chief Galen Miller said the department is considering all avenues.

“I don’t know what we’re going to do,” Tampa assistant fire chief Tim Svoboda said. “We don’t have the money.”

Fundraisers are another possibility, Svoboda said.

“In the Tampa community, when we have to do something, there’s a good turnout,” Svoboda said. “We’ve had fundraisers before, and usually get what we ask for.”

Pagenkopf said his department is juggling two needs.

“With my department, I have a brush truck that needs to be updated, and I may have to get radios instead of the brush truck,” Pagenkopf said. “We’ll take donations. We’ll take anything. We’re not asking for payment. We’re asking for the tools we need to do our jobs safely. We sure need that support from the community.”


Posted by Gwen Dorr Romine, KSFFA Webmaster
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New firefighter joins department

By Kelsey Unruh
Hillsboro Star Journal – March 29, 2017

Since he was a little boy, Austin Welch has wanted to be a firefighter. His dream came true March 21, when he was accepted as a firefighter with the Hillsboro Fire Department.

Since before he was approved to join the department, Austin has been busy taking firefighting courses in Halstead in the evenings.

“He’s a busy kid,” Austin’s mom Angie said. “This is something he’s liked all his life.”

Austin has been involved with the department since he was four years old, when he noticed a small fire in the bushes in front of Hillsboro Mennonite Brethren Church in 2003.

“He was standing outside at (the old location of) Vogt’s with his mom and was pointing and saying, ‘Fire, fire, fire,’ until he got his mom’s attention,” fire chief Ben Steketee said.

His mother called the fire department, and the fire was put out with only minor damage to the building.

“We thought that was pretty neat, so we got him a remote control fire truck,” Steketee said.

From then on, Steketee said, Austin was always a part of the fire department.

“He was always around and always wanting to participate,” Steketee said. “That was, I think, the start of it all.”

Austin’s dad also got involved as a firefighter with the department for eight years. Austin also has a cousin who is a firefighter in Wichita, so it was only a matter of time until he also joined the field.

“So I was around the department at a young age and got a grasp for the job,” Austin said. “Being around it, you just kind of want to follow in the family footsteps and make it a family business.”

Austin said he’s excited to serve the community and “to serve in one of the best departments in the county.” He also said he is not in firefighting for the glory.

“I’m here to serve the community and that’s my job,” Austin said. “That’s what I’m here for.”

Angie said she does not feel too anxious about her son going to fight fires.

“They train them and whatnot,” Angie said, “but you’re always nervous a little bit. You’re nervous whenever you hear anyone go out, especially someone you know.”

Austin plans to take fire science classes at Hutchinson Community College in the fall.

Angie feels that having been involved with the fire department for so long will help Austin be prepared.

“I think anything that they do here is going to help and benefit him for that,” Angie said.

Austin also has donned the department Fire Pup costume, visiting elementary schools and teaching children fire safety tips.

With Austin being involved in the department for so long, Angie said it shows younger kids how they can also get involved.

“Him growing up and being attracted to that stuff, and now he’s doing this stuff and other kids are looking up to it,” Angie said. “It’s kind of a way for him to pay back a little bit.”


Posted by Gwen Dorr Romine, KSFFA Webmaster
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Newton Fire/EMS plans awards reception

Newton Kansan – March 29, 2017

Newton Fire/EMS staff invite the public to attend as they honor co-workers who have performed outstanding service in the past year to the community and the department.

The awards reception will be at 7 p.m. April 6 at Station 3, 2520 S. Kansas Ave. The event was developed as a means of honoring individuals who perform above and beyond the call of duty.

Captain Leroy Dyck and retired Chief Mark Willis will receive the Lifetime Achievement Award, and Firefighter/EMT Zac Lujano and Firefighter/Paramedic Kevin Finley will receive the Outstanding Achievement Award.

Deputy Chief Steve Roberson, Lieutenant Joe Martin, Firefighter/EMT Garret McKinney, Firefighter/Paramedic Duane Helms, Firefighter/Paramedic Drew Couey, Firefighter/EMT Bryce Roth, and Emergency Room staff from Newton Medical Center will receive the Lifesaver Award for their work in resuscitating a young woman from clinical death and returning her to her family.


Posted by Gwen Dorr Romine, KSFFA Webmaster
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Stolen firefighter’s vehicle

By Phil Anderson
Topeka Capital Journal – March 29, 2017

Click on photo to view full-size.

So much for being a Good Samaritan.

A volunteer firefighter found out as much Wednesday morning after authorities said his pickup truck was stolen by the woman he had stopped to help after her car caught fire on Interstate 70 in west Topeka.

The theft led to a high-speed chase through a large portion of western Shawnee County, finally coming to an end just west of Dover in Wabaunsee County.

The woman suspected in the truck theft was taken into custody by Kansas Highway Patrol troopers. She was expected to be booked into the Shawnee County Jail on multiple counts related to the theft and chase. Her name wasn’t immediately available.

The incident began around 9:15 a.m., when a blue, four-door car was reported on fire on the shoulder of westbound I-70 near the S.W. Wanamaker Road exit.

Kansas Highway Patrol spokesman Lt. Adam Winters said a volunteer firefighter who was passing through the area saw the car on fire and stopped to render aid.

With the weather damp and chilly at the time, Winters said, the firefighter allowed the woman whose car was burning to sit in his truck.

The firefighter then got out of the truck to assist with putting out the car fire. After he exited the truck, the woman drove away, headed west on I-70.

Winters said KHP troopers spotted the truck a few minutes after it had been reported stolen as it traveled west on I-70 near S.W. Auburn Road, about two miles west of where the car fire occurred.

The trooper attempted to pull over the truck around 9:30 a.m., but the woman sped away, leaving I-70 at the Auburn Road exit, then turning south on Auburn Road.

The chase reached speeds of 90 mph at times as the chase proceeded south on Auburn Road.

About two miles up the road, the chase turned west onto S.W. K-4 highway, which meanders through a wide area of western Shawnee County.

The truck later went through the town of Dover in extreme western Shawnee County, continuing west on K-4 highway into Wabaunsee County.

The truck was reported to have been disabled after it hit a pillar and another vehicle at S.W. 57th and Douglas Road in Dover.

The chase came to an end around 9:45 a.m. about a mile west of Dover, near K-4 highway and Echo Cliffs Road, just inside Wabaunsee County.

No injuries were reported.

Additional details weren’t immediately available.


Posted by Gwen Dorr Romine, KSFFA Webmaster
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Carl A. Whitcomb

Carl A. Whitcomb, 78, of Spring Hill, KS, passed away March 25, 2017 in his home surrounded by his family and closest friends. Visitation 6-8:00 pm Thursday, March 30, 2017 at The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, 28750 Hospital Drive, Paola, KS 66071. Funeral Service will be at 9:30 am Friday, March 31, 2017 also at the church. The burial will follow at 12:30 pm at Leavenworth National Cemetery, 150 Muncie Rd., Leavenworth, KS 66048. Memorial contributions may be made to Johnson County Fire District 2/Carl Whitcomb Fund, 19120 Metcalf Ave, Stilwell, KS 66085. Condolences may be left at

Carl was born October 1, 1938 in Greenville, SC to Ernest Cuberly and Lola Beatrice (Burns) Whitcomb. He grew up in Burlington, KS and then graduated from Waverly High School in 1958. Carl was drafted into the United States Army and served in the Korean Conflict. He married Judy Ann VanVranken on August 5, 1961 in Yates Center, KS. They have lived in Spring Hill for the last 31 years. He worked for UPS as a mechanic for 20 years while serving as a Volunteer Captain for the Spring Hill Fire Dept. Prior to this, he served on the Hoyt Fire Dept for five years. He loved fishing, hunting, and was an avid gunsmith. Most of all, Carl loved nothing more than spending time with his grandchildren and going to their activities. He will be missed by his family and friends.

Carl was preceded in death by his parents and infant brother, Jerry Whitcomb. He is survived by his wife, Judy; daughter, Julie and Bob Carlisle of Corpus Christi, TX and their children: Allison, Sean and Ryan; daughter, Virginia and Mark Whelan of Overland Park, KS and their children: Ian and Logan; daughter, Louise and Robert Bardwell of Spring Hill, KS and their children: David, Mark, Miranda, Tyler, Derek, Jordan and Courtney; three great-grandchildren and siblings: Gene and Irma Whitcomb of Greenville, SC, George and Sharon Whitcomb of Lawson, MO, Leon and Patsy Whitcomb of Grove, OK, Paul and Deborah Whitcomb of Greenville, SC, Lida and Roy Lawson of Burlington, KS and David Whitcomb of Greenville, SC

A special and heartfelt thank you to the Firefighters of Johnson County Fire District 2. The Dept. went above and beyond in their line of duty to provide aid and support, anytime, anywhere with the upmost respect. With our deepest sincerity, the Whitcomb Family.


Posted by Gwen Dorr Romine, KSFFA Webmaster
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New Kan. Fire Marshal policy will change fundraising with fireworks

Hays Post – March 29, 2017

To enable charitable groups to better leverage the fund-raising potential of selling fireworks leading up to the upcoming Independence Day holiday, the Office of the State Fire Marshal has issued a policy statement which permits organizations to sell fireworks without requiring them to operate their own fireworks stand, according to a media release.

Until now, in order for an organization to generate fund-raising revenue through fireworks sales, they were required to operate a licensed fireworks stand.

This requirement prevented many organizations from selling fireworks because of the cost and manpower requirements of operating a fireworks stand.

As of Wednesday, organizations can now sell fireworks as a fundraiser as long as the delivery of fireworks to the purchaser occurs during the retail fireworks season of June 27 through July 5 as established by K.A.R. 22-6-5.


Posted by Gwen Dorr Romine, KSFFA Webmaster
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