Archive for Wednesday, October 13, 2004

In appreciation of firefighters

Shouts and murmurs column

October 13, 2004

Last week was Fire Prevention Week. For area firefighters it was a busy week.

On Wednesday afternoon, Tonganoxie volunteer firefighters Brian Welch and Tammy McCutcheon talked to school children about Fire Prevention Week.

They met them in the playground where a city fire truck was parked, and showed the children the different parts of the truck.

Then, they convened to the school's outdoor classroom where children watched as Welch donned his firefighter's suit, including a face mask and air tank.

The children asked plenty of questions, which Welch and McCutcheon patiently answered. The children went back to their classrooms with fire prevention books in hand, and with a greater awareness of fire prevention in mind.

I took pictures of Welch and McCutcheon as they talked to the students. None of us had any way of knowing that before 24 hours had passed, I'd be taking their pictures again -- this time at a house fire about two miles north of Tonganoxie.

It was a serious fire -- a two-story house off a gravel road which on Thursday's rainy morning, was slippery from rains. The nearest fire hydrant was in the city of Tonganoxie. Fire department tanker trucks chugged back and forth to town for more water to fight the fire.

It was a dismal fire that took hold, and despite continuing showers and heroic efforts by firefighters, the blaze refused to die.

But firefighters gave it their best, donning suits, masks and air tanks and heading into the blazing, smoking house.

Despite their efforts, the fire kept building, with smoke coming out of attic vents, and later with orange flames filling a room, clearly visible from the outside through a bay window.

By the end of the day, some eight hours later, firefighters were still at the scene. And despite their efforts, the fire destroyed the house.

When you consider that the firefighters are volunteers, it's pretty amazing. A fire can take hours out of their day, the work is dangerous, and along with the fires and vehicle accidents they attend to, the firefighters also devote time to training.

With last week being Fire Prevention Week, their schedules were even more grueling.

Saturday morning, Tonganoxie firefighters, some of whom had fought the Thursday blaze, were at it again. But that time it was at the fire station, with their wives and children, where they held a pancake and sausage breakfast.

And at the Reno Township Fire Station (Reno also helped on Thursday's fire), there was an open house and chili supper.

The event included games for children, chili, homemade pie and, of course, lots of visiting.

And, when firefighters were dispatched to a rollover accident on Interstate 70, the visitors saw how quickly they respond. Within a minute after hearing the page, the firefighters were in their trucks, heading down the road.

It just brought to mind the fact that whether at home, at work or at play, firefighters are always on call.

And, I think to those of us who saw the firefighters grab their gear and run to the truck, it made us appreciate their efforts even more.

Thank you, area firefighters, for all that you do.

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