Fire Department Opens To The Public

By Kevin Gray

It didn’t take long for young Jonathon Cole to walk across the alley from his mother’s house behind the Osawatomie Fire Station to take part in Saturday morning’s annual open house activities.

Since he was spending the weekend in Osawatomie, the Wellsville Elementary student rode his bicycle over soon after getting up. “I was one of the first kids here,” Jonathon said.

As Osawatomie Fire Chief DuWayne Tewes and his department went about their planned activities, Jonathon also made the rounds.

Jonathon was the first child to take target practice with the fire hose, in his case with the assistance of firefighter Kyle Hurt.

Jonathon also made sure to stay back behind the safety cones during the extrication and jaws-of-life demonstration, when glass went flying.

The hot dogs cooked by 25-year veteran firefighter John Marshall did little to interest Jonathon, nor did the chips and dessert spread. Not even the OZFD cookies baked by Amy Barenklau.

“I want to be a firefighter because you rescue people, cut down cars, and can spray with the hoses. Then, you can spray the firefighters,” Jonathon said.

Chief Tewes and Marshall could not agree more with Jonathon’s statements.

“Even though firefighting is dangerous work, and you never know what to expect, we’re living every little kid’s fantasy every time we climb inside that big truck and go racing to a fire,” Tewes said. “You still get that thrill, that is until you get there!”

Even though Jonathon lives in Wellsville and spends weekends in Osawatomie, he said he goes to fire department open houses all the time, as he waited to use the fire hose again. “I want a fire fighter suit more than anything,” he said.

The Osawatomie Fire Department opened its doors and rolled out all of the equipment housed there, Tewes said, for people in Osawatomie and surrounding communities to see. “We like to let folks see what they have paid for. When we ask for money and receive new equipment, we like for the public to see where that money goes,” he said.

While a very young Adalyn Hicks sprayed cones with the fire hose, assisted by fire fighter Travis Brewer, her mother Jessica Hicks looked on. “The kids brought home flyers from school about the open house, so we thought it would be fun to drive down,” Hicks said, as her other children Luke and Evan awaited their turns. The Hicks family live in the Paola school district.

Tewes said he was anxious to show off the department’s expanded dive rescue equipment and improved services. “We now have more EMTs and certified fire fighters to provide necessary needs. We have also added two new fire fighters, Travis Brewer and Tony Savage, because new people are important,” Tewes said.

The department is always looking for new applicants. “We have a few slots to fill but will wait until we have a few applications before the training process begins. Training takes a while, so we would rather have the new fire fighters go through training together,” Tewes said.

Waiting to train a few new people at a time is more time efficient.

“Working with four, five, six at a time, we can train faster and in a more orderly fashion than doing it seat of your pants, like they did in the old days,” Tewes said. “And with the complexity of the equipment and training, we can’t expect to just throw new recruits in!”

While fire fighter John Marshall continued to cook the hot dogs, he remembered fire fighters had to carry their gear in their cars. “And we had the old fire phones at home. When you got a call, there was one long and continuous ring, not like pagers, and the dispatcher told you where to go,” according to Marshall. Because the viaduct had not been built, yet, the city kept trucks on both sides of town. “I took care of the west side. This way, we wouldn’t have to wait on trains. We just hoped enough fire fighters were on the fire side of the tracks. We just hoped somebody would think to stop and get a truck, while everybody else raced to the fire!”

The city, before consolidation of trucks and equipment in one building, tried to keep four trucks, two on both sides of town. “There would be a city truck and a rural jeep through the forestry department,” Marshall said.

The siren at Osawatomie City Hall was loud enough to alert any fire fighters not at home or working outside. “This was the only way we had to alert those guys not inside their houses,” Marshall said.

Marshall enjoyed the challenges of fire fighting in his earlier days, but thinks the changes he has seen, especially with the turn to more medical training and better equipment is a good thing.

Tewes stated that the fire department is called more often by the EMS services to assist with heart attacks and strokes. “We always helped with heart attacks but calls for heart attacks have grown. Protocol on stroke victims with more assistance has grown and has become necessary, and we make the helicopter calls and assist. In other words our medical assistance has really expanded,” he continued.

Nine trucks and two trailers to carry boats make up the expanded department according to Tewes, but Marshall said space is cramped.

“We went to a unisex restroom and took out the ladies’ restroom a few years ago to make more room. And, fire fighters have very little room in which to gear up,” Tewes said.

They have managed to creatively fit what equipment they can into the present station house. “But the Electric Shop next door allows us to store more equipment on their side. Once we gear up, we have to get into their shop to get our truck and equipment,” Marshall said.

To date, the Osawatomie Fire Department houses three brush trucks, three pumper trucks, one pumper tender, two rescue trucks able to pull a boat trailer and a dive trailer.

When the current station house was built, there were only six trucks. “Now we have grown and house county equipment and equipment received through grants,” Tewes said.

Nor do they have room for meetings or training without moving trucks in and out. “We need a new building!” said Marshall.

Tewes agreed with Marshall, but he understands the constraints of today’s economy. “I just worry about safety for department members working in such tight space,” he said.

In the meantime, Jonathon’s blond hair and blue University of Kansas T-shirt could easily be spotted talking to the dive-team members, watching the recorded programming of Osawatomie firefighters in action and peeking into fire trucks and crawling up and into the trucks.



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Posted by admin on Oct 19 2011. Filed under News and Updates. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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