Volunteers provide grass fire help in Reno Co.


By Travis Mounts

Local fire departments played a role in containing the wildfires that scorched areas in Reno County two week ago.
High winds and warm weather led to a fire that burned more than 600 acres north of Hutchinson. Locally, crews from Argonia, Clearwater and Conway Springs responded. All of these departments are staffed by volunteer firefighters.
Dan Weaver is Argonia’s assistant fire chief. Weaver was joined by two other Argonia firefighters and a Wellington firefighter for an overnight shift, working from around 6:30 p.m. until 9:30 a.m. the next day.
“That makes for a long night,” he said. “We were fairly busy.”
The crew was tasked with putting out hot spots, following a bulldozer making a fire line. They also brought Argonia’s tanker truck. They met at the Hutchinson airport, then went to the command center for their assignment.
The firefighters from Argonia and Conway Springs responded as part of the Sumner County Task Force. These arrangements are important for fire departments all across the state, as a large fire or disaster, such as a grass fire, can overwhelm a single department. The Hutchinson fire response was a multi-day effort.
“I bet I counted 20 different departments when we were up there,” Weaver said.
The Clearwater Fire Department sent four different firefighters to Reno County, two each on two different shifts. Clearwater responded as part of the Sedgwick County Wild Land Task Force, but it also is part of the Sumner County Task Force. Fire Chief Jared Dinwiddie said Clearwater usually responds to two or three fires per year as part of one task force or the other. Clearwater also sent its brush unit to Reno County.
Weaver said the Argonia Fire Department normally has about 10 mutual aid calls per year. On Sunday night, they helped with a fire in Harper County.
Dinwiddie said the mutual aid agreements are especially important for volunteer units, who may not have all of their people available, depending on the time of day. He tells his crews to ask for help when needed.
“It’s better to have them on the way and send them back,” he said.
There are similar arrangements between other local fire departments. Clearwater and Cheney often roll out along with crews from Sedgwick County, and Conway Springs helps back up Viola.
“If we need (help), we can also call upon them,” Weaver said.
Weaver expressed his thanks to the people of Hutchinson for supporting the visiting firefighters. He said somebody bought their drinks at a gas station in Hutchinson, and a waitress at Carriage Crossing restaurant in Yoder bought their breakfasts before they headed home.