Mutual aid on display

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Local News

August 13, 2018 - 10:31 AM

With six fire departments covering all of Allen County, it’s important that members of each department know the capabilities of the other, Sean McReynolds noted Saturday.
McReynolds, who serves as fire chief for Humboldt’s city and rural volunteer departments, helped organize a gathering of representatives from the departments of Iola, Humboldt, LaHarpe, Moran, Elsmore/Savonburg and the Allen County Volunteer Fire Department.
The firefighters gathered at Allen County Airport with several of their respective trunks, tankers and other life-saving equipment.
The goal, McReynolds said, is for each department to realize the tools their neighbors have in case mutual aid is required.
“This all came out of meetings the chiefs have been having the past year or so,” McReynolds said. “We thought it’d be nice to get together… to look around at what the other departments have, so if we’re in a mutual aid situation, we’re familiar with the guys and familiar with the equipment that might be out there.”
The departments are in the midst of updating mutual aid agreements to be ratified by their respective governing bodies.
“A lot of these agreements are things we’re already doing,” McReynolds said. “This just makes it more official.” (Iola City Council members ratified the new mutual aid pact in June.)

CONNECTIVITY between equipment was a primary topic.
For example, the Savonburg/Elsmore trucks do not use treaded hose connections, the only department in the county not to do so.
That means other departments should have adapters in case they need to hook onto anything from the Elsmore/Savonburg department, noted Phil Merkel, Moran fire chief..
Merke also noted the importance of knowing which department’s volunteers are readily available for calls at various times.
His department, for example, has 10 volunteers, but because most of them have full-time jobs, few are available for calls during the week.
Having that knowledge helps other departments know whether to continue searching elsewhere in case mutual aid is required.
It’s also important for departments to acknowledge if few volunteers are available for mutual aid, added Gary Kimball, deputy fire chief with the Iola Fire Department. That way, if a department is unavailable, dispatchers can more quickly contact others for assistance.

ALSO on hand for the event was Eric Lawrence of the Kansas State Fire Marshal’s office to show off his unmanned drone he uses to get aerial photos of fire scenes.
Such a tool can be handy in determining how and where a fire started.
He was unable to fly the drone, however, because the get-together was at the airport, where flying such devices is banned.
McReynolds said the event was successful
“It’s important for Allen County to see how its firefighters are dedicated to improving our ability to protect lives and property,” he said.

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