By Michael Buhler
The emergency landing of an airplane near Cheney Lake has brought renewed attention to the many roles that local fire and rescue departments have to play in their communities.
Fire and rescue departments in south central Kansas almost literally have the be the jacks-of-all-trades, ready to respond to anything at anytime.
Craig Leu, the deputy chief of Fire District No. 1 in Sedgwick County, says that fire and rescue basically is the backup for other services like police and EMS.
“I think the deal with any fire department is that you’re the fallback response to any unusual situation,” Leu said. “Anytime a dispatcher is not sure who to send, the fire department is called out.
You run into a lot of things that the normal citizen would not think the fire department is ready for. The good thing about fire service is that we’re an open book – there are no trade secrets. Through the years, we’ve done a lot of stuff.”
Leu has seen fire and rescue take on a lot of things in the past, from aiding with incidents at Wichita’s Mid-Continent Airport to rescuing a horse from a cistern.
“We’ve had a lot of emergencies through the years,” Leu said. “We assist Wichita Fire and Mid-Continent on any emergency they have. Smaller planes and spray planes can be interesting too. We deal with such incidents as water rescue calls and agricultural accidents, such as grain bin issues – like having to pull someone out of a grain bin. We recently had to use the Jaws of Life to get cows out of an overturned truck.”
Clearwater fire chief Marvin Schauf said that his crew has to be ready for “almost anything.” He told the story of a lady who drove off in four feet of floodwater southeast of Clearwater a few years ago and had to be rescued.
“You never know what the call is going to be,” Schauf said. “We’re trained in most everything and we meet twice a month on training. Next week, we’re going to Lake Afton and train there for water rescue.”
Crews from numerous departments including Sedgwick County Fire Station No. 34 responded to a field fire west of Haysville this summer.