Monthly Archives: June 2014

Basement “Drug Operation” Fire – Three Firefighters Injured

As Rick walked through the “Home For Sale” at 1001 Highland Circle he knew the many people touring the home had no knowledge of what happened here over thirty years ago.

It was a time when things were much different than today. Firefighting was one of the things that were different. Thirty years ago a firefighter’s gear consisted of a helmet that resembled that worn by a motorcycle cop, a light-weight jacket, rubber boots that pulled up high-thigh-level just above the bottom of the jacket, and jersey yellow farm gloves.

Something that was the same thirty years ago was the problem with illegal drugs. Which brings us to the day of the fire.

photo (33)I was assigned Squad duty that day. My partner Roger and I were moved to station #2, because the engine had been taken to headquarters for repairs. The motor on the Squad hadn’t cooled before the round alarm on the wall rattled out the fire tone. What followed was a message from the Dispatcher, “We have a report of a fire in a basement at 1001 Highland Circle. Everyone is out of the home.”

Roger and I ran to the Squad and jumped into our gear. The distance from the fire station to the fire was a short distance. A middle-aged man met us on our arrival. He pointed to the home and said, “The fire is in the back of the basement.”

We grabbed our air packs, then a rubber 3/4″ booster line, and headed down into the basement. We were met with heavy smoke but no flames. The basement was full of barrels, glass bottles, and other unidentifiable items. We worked our way to the back room in the basement and found the fire had self-extinguished itself.

IMG_1682Other firefighters arrived on scene and made their way down into the basement. I heard glass breaking and assumed the firefighters had knocked some of the glass containers over. Firefighters Rick and Gene entered the room where I was at as my partner left to get an air refill.

Rick came over to my side of the room. He nudged me and pointed to something on a table. It was a scale.

My muffled reply was, “Something is odd about this fire.” Those words had barely left my fogged over mask when I heard a loud “Whoosh!” I looked out the room’s doorway and saw a monstrous fire ball rolling across the basement towards us. In the blink of an eye the fire ball was in our room.

Gene was on the other side of the room. In trying to get over to us he slipped and fell to his back. The room was completely in flames. I opened the nozzle and directed it at Gene to protect him. Unfortunately, the straight stream was blasting him so hard that he simply flailed all four extremities like a turtle on its back.

photo 1 (4)The heat was blistering my hands through the yellow jersey gloves rendering me unable to turn the nozzle to fog. Rick reached around me and made the adjustment. As quickly as the fire ball had entered the room it was now out.

Rick, Gene, and I exited the basement. We all suffered second degree burns to our hands and ears. While we were transported to the hospital other firefighters cleared the basement. One of the firefighters reached into one of the barrels, grabbed a handful of its contents, and brought it outside. It was marijuana.

Multiple barrels of processing marijuana were removed from the basement along with numerous glass bottles of liquid chemical. A chemist from the local college identified the unmarked chemicals. He said, “There was enough chemicals in that basement to blow the house off the foundation.”

As Rick toured the home he snapped a picture of the hot water heater. Did anyone know this heater was the ignition source of a fire ball over thirty years ago? It’s probably best to keep that story from the new owners.

*The owner of the home and his wife had several small children. He hired a good lawyer who used the removal of the marijuana by the firefighter to get him off most of the charges.

FIREWORKS – Dan Doofus Safety Tips

FireworksThe NFPA National Fire Protection Association advises people to “Leave fireworks to the professionals. Do not use consumer fireworks.” Read all of NFPA’s fireworks safety tips and download their free safety tip sheet.

Each July Fourth, thousands of people, most often children and teens, are injured while using consumer fireworks.
Despite the dangers of fireworks, few people understand the associated risks – devastating burns, other injuries, fires, and even death.

The Alliance to Stop Consumer Fireworks is a group of health and safety organizations, coordinated by NFPA, that urges the public to avoid the use of consumer fireworks and instead, to enjoy displays of fireworks conducted by trained professionals.

NFPA introduces Dan Doofus, who urges people not to use consumer fireworks because they are too dangerous. Fireworks are responsible for thousands of fires and injuries each year.

Fireworks by the numbers.

In 2011, fireworks caused an estimated 17,800 reported fires, including 1,200 total structure fires, 400 vehicle fires, and 16,300 outside and other fires. These fires resulted in an estimated eight reported civilian deaths, 40 civilian injuries and $32 million in direct property damage.

In 2012, U.S. hospital emergency rooms treated an estimated 8,700 people for fireworks related injuries; 55% of 2012 emergency room fireworks-related injuries were to the extremities and 31% were to the head.

The risk of fireworks injury was highest for young people ages 15-24, followed by children under 10.

On Independence Day in a typical year, far more U.S. fires are reported than on any other day, and fireworks account for two out of five of those fires, more than any other cause of fires.

Triple Structure Fire – El Dorado/Butler County

IMG_8781Early this afternoon El Dorado firefighters responded to a report of a structure fire at 38 SE 40th Street.

On arrival the firefighters found three outdoor structures fully involved with fire. Firefighters remained on scene for approximately two hours fully extinguishing the collapsed structures.

At one point during the firefight Squad Trucks had to be dispatched for a grass fire caused by embers flying off the burning structures.

High temperatures coupled with high humidity made the firefight more difficult and dangerous for the firefighters. Luckily, no firefighter injuries were reported.

The cause of the fire is unknown at this time.

KU Burn Props – El Dorado FD

IMG_1903This evening KU Fire & Rescue Training Institute brought their burn props trailer to the City of El Dorado. And, it was mighty impressive.

Kansas City Fire Department Captain Bryan Welch was the one who brought the trailer. He works part-time for KU as do most of their instructors. Winfield Officer Chad Mayberry and retired El Dorado Officer Bill Doan also assisted KU instructors.

The trainers explained that the entire semi trailer and props cost in the range of $750,000. It sounds expensive, but it’s used over 100 times annually. And, it includes a number of stainless steel props. There’s a vehicle prop, a propane prop, a dumpster prop, liquid pan props, charcoal grille props, and more.

Firefighters from the county and beyond were invited. One firefighter was from Sedgewick County.

photo 5 (2)There were also a number of citizens who came out to watch the training exercise. Some of those included Tiffany, Tabitha, and Taylor Brown. And Hattie, Gavin, and Gabe Williamson.

They got to observe some greatness – Great Instructors and Great Firefighters!

*Check out local Photographer Chad Wittenberg’s website for more great photos @

Shooting Fireworks – The City of El Dorado

Shooting fireworks in the City of El Dorado is legal on specific days and time periods. Those are as follows:

FireworksJune 27 – July 3 10:00 am to 10 pm
July 4 – 8:00 am to Midnight
July 5 – 10:00 am to 10:00 pm

* Do not discharge fireworks on private or public property without permission.
* Clean up all firework debris.
* Violations can result in fines up to $2,500 and/or imprisonment for no more than one year.

Have Fun ~ But, Be Safe!