Archive for Wednesday, December 22, 1999

He’s landed his dream job

City’s first full-time firefighter eager to help make Tonganoxie safer

December 22, 1999

James Paine had been back on the job with the Tonganoxie Fire Department fewer than two months when he received a strong reminder about why he loves firefighting.

Last month, after a fire broke out at the Lansing Correctional Facility, Tonganoxie firefighters were called. Paine was among firefighters responding.

"Firefighting is my first love," said Paine, who in October began work as Tonganoxie's first full-time firefighter.

Paine is no stranger to the firefighting business. He volunteered for eight years at the local fire department before moving in October 1998 to Phoenix. Last April, he returned to the Tonganoxie area. He is currently living in Bonner Springs. He worked for Vanguard Airlines in his time away from being a firefighter.

"I always knew I would come back," Paine said. "It didn't take long to realize how much I missed it."

Now, Paine gets paid for doing what he loves.

"Right now it is hard, since I have been a volunteer for so long, for me to think of myself as a full-time firefighter," Paine said. "But, I enjoy it either way."

Paine is not all about firefighting, though. He has three children: two sons, 8 and 5, and a daughter, 3. His sons live with him in Bonner Springs, and his daughter lives in Tonganoxie. His other love is hockey.

A full-time firefighting position was created by the city because the department's annual call rate increased from 175 about three years ago to over 200 this year, Charlie Conrad, fire chief, said. The department had relied solely on the work of volunteers. Paine's job was created to help alleviate the pressure on those 16 volunteer firefighters. His position is equal to that of eight volunteers, Conrad said.

Of four applicants, Paine was chosen.

"Jamie's done an outstanding job," Conrad said. "I, myself, could not be any happier."

Paine ensures equipment works properly, and he schedules training for new firefighters "I love doing the training," said Paine, 29. "If I am not fighting a fire, I enjoy being able to pass on information to the new firefighters."

Paine has dreamed of being a firefighter since he was a boy. When he was a junior in high school, he realized it was his calling. Paine took fire safety and paramedic classes at Johnson County Community College.

He plans to start a pre-planning program to help him become more familiar with safety procedures in businesses around Tonganoxie.

Pre-planning will consist of doing walk-throughs in the major businesses in the downtown area. He wants to be able to look at the
businesses' building and get a floor plan.

These are not inspections, Paine emphasized, but a way to help him and other firefighters do a better job.

He wants the firefighters to be aware before going into a situation the safest way to get out of it. Determining how much water and possible hydrants for water flow could save time if a fire were to start.

"Firefighting is really a science," Paine said. "If a fire is correctly fought, then there will be little smoke and water damage."

Paine takes firefighting a little more seriously now than when he started out. The less experienced the firefighter is the more excited and pumped they are when called out. But, this is not always a good thing.

With time, an amateur firefighter matures.

"I was the same way," Paine said. "I've settled down a lot. Having experience over the years makes a huge difference."

In the past, Paine said, volunteer firefighters have been taken for granted in the community. Nobody realizes what they really go through.

It's possible the city could hire a second full-time employee in the future.

But, for now, the fire department is satisfied having its first full-timer.

"It has tremendously benefitted the department," Conrad said. " The fire department needs to grow with the growth in Tonganoxie.

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