Archive for Wednesday, September 6, 2006

Basehor prepares for full-time fire department

September 6, 2006

Labor Day weekend meant a couple of volunteer work days for members of Tonganoxie's Masonic Lodge.

Friday morning Glenn Graves, Tonganoxie, and Earl Reavis, Basehor, started out early, armed with a paintbrush and paint roller. Their goal -- to volunteer with other Masons to paint the upstairs of Basehor's new fire station.

By noon, Reavis smiled as he looked through paint-speckled glasses. He said he and Graves thought it would take a couple weekends for their group to paint the second floor, which has separate living spaces for male and female firefighters.

"They were building onto the fire station," said Reavis, who several weeks ago contacted Fairmount Fire Chief Jeff Theno about helping. "I knew it would have to be painted."

Theno said he was glad to have the Masons' help, as well as help from his staff of 36 volunteer firefighters and others in the community.

"They did the dirt work," Theno said, "all the painting has been donated, all the labor, a lot of the cleanup has been donated. A lot of the framing was done -- they've just donated a lot of time. On top of trying to keep our community safe, they've been down there doing this."

Construction of the fire station, at 2624 155th St., just north of Basehor City Hall, is expected to be complete in about a month.

A yearlong project

Work on the $250,000 addition to the fire station started about a year ago. The building will include living quarters for a future paid fire department, office spaces, kitchen, laundry room, communications room, conference room and break room, in addition to more storage space for fire trucks and equipment. Theno said the station's largest truck, which has a 105-foot ladder, now will be able to be stored in Basehor. Because it wouldn't fit in the existing station in Basehor, it had been kept at Fairmount Township's south fire station at 158th and Metro.

As before, the Basehor fire station will serve as a polling location and can be used for community events.

As the area's population and traffic increases, calls have risen. Theno has been chief for four years and on the department since 1980.

"We're probably increasing about 10 percent a year," Theno said. "We're increasing about 50 runs a year."

Theno said he thought the year would top out with 500 calls. "We're at around 350 right now," he said.

Despite the increasing number of calls, the volunteer staff has kept up, he said.

"Our manpower is pretty good," Theno said. "We're pretty strong."

Theno said the area was fortunate to have four or five full-time firefighters who serve as Fairmount volunteers.

When they're not at their other jobs, he said, "They're down at our station."

And, he said, the firefighters have extensive training. "We've got a couple of paramedics on our department and a couple EMTs, so we run pretty strong," Theno said.

Of the calls his staff have made this year, about 85 to 90 percent are medical related.

And, Theno said the department has handled serious traffic accidents this year.

"We had a double fatality on K-7 and about 30 days later we had a single fatality on K-7," Theno said.

Fairmount's territory includes an area with these general boundaries: the county line on the east; 171st Street on the west; Dempsey Road on the north; and Hemphill Road on the south, including a stretch of the Kansas Turnpike.

The fire department is looking ahead to calculate staffing needs.

"Our long-range plan is, within the next five years, to be hiring a full-time chief and hire three or four fill-time firefighters," Theno said.

With the new building's design, the district will have room to house the staff.

"This building will carry us through for the next 50 to 100 years," Theno said.

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