A Fire Chief’s Worst Thing

What’s the worst thingphoto (5) a fire chief could experience?

There are a number of things that come to mind. How about getting fired? The pink slip experience is certainly not a fun-filled event, but there’s something that’s worse, much worse.

How about a major fire at the home of the City Manager’s best friend – and the fire department doesn’t respond? That’s a bad thing and a future story. But, there’s still something that’s worse.

No, the GRANDDADDY WORST EVENT for a fire chief is hands down “a serious injury or death of a firefighter” – one of your firefighters.

It was a day that leading in didn’t have any particular significance. So much so that details leading up to the event don’t immediately come to mind.

One recalls that a firefighter wanted to learn pumping operations. The crew decided to get some hose tested during the training. It wasn’t uncommon – at this time in the department’s history – to test hose with an engine, especially when there wasn’t much hose to test. And that was the case.

The hose was all laid out and the test started. As firefighters observed the hose they noticed a few of the couplings were leaking. Instead of shutting down the engine while the couplings were tightened – which is what should’ve been done – firefighters simply started tightening the problem connections.

David was one of the firefighters. He had tightened several couplings when he came to another. This one was an old school solid brass coupling. The thick beast should have been retired and sold off for scrap, but it kept passing the muster. And today it just would not seal.

It would take a little more effort. David placed the spanners on the couplings with his head positioned directly above at exactly the time the trainee flipped the switch – the volume to pressure switch.

The extra surge was all that was needed to push a weak spot in the hose beyond its breaking point. Unfortunately, the bursting point in all the hose laid out was immediately adjacent to the coupling David was tightening.

The hose shot upwards like a rocket into David’s head. The blow rendered him unconscious while dropping him to the pavement. Fellow firefighters were at his side practically seconds after it happened. In break neck speed they treated, packaged, and transported him to the hospital.

David spent a number of days in intensive care before we got the best news a fire chief will ever get in his career – a severely injured firefighter will recover.


Wildland Fires Aplenty

wdld3Firefighters were just finished fighting a wild land fire on SE 50th and Highway 77 when they were paged to another wild land fire on 13th and Blue Stem.

Heavy winds and heavy grasslands made the firefight that much more difficult.  Leon firefighters assisted with the firefight on both fires.

During this same time firefighters in the Andover/Rose Hill district fought a grass fire of their own.  And Cassoday was working on one of theirs on the turnpike.

Rural property owners need to be extra careful not to start any fires purposely of accidentally.  The fire on 13th and Bluestem was started by a burn barrel emitting sparks.

Great job by all departments.

*Great job also by Chad Wittenberg – who not only took photos, he even pitched in to help with fence repairs.

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House Fire on Douglas St.

Photo by Chad Wittenberg
Photo by Chad Wittenberg

A homeowner was cooking dinner this evening when he noticed smoke coming from the direction of a bedroom.  When he went to check on the smoke, he found a fire in the bedroom.

Firefighters arrived to find flames coming from the entire front of home as well as the roof.  Firefighters were on scene for over an hour and a half getting the entire fire in the multilayer roof extinguished.

The home was a complete loss.  The owners nor the occupants had insurance.  A church is helping the family.

The cause of the fire is undetermined at this time.

Two pets perished in the fire.

*Check back for additional photos from professional photographer Chad Wittenberg