23 Apr LOYALTY, FRIENDS AND ENEMIES
“YOU HAVE ENEMIES? GOOD! THAT MEANS
YOU’VE STOOD UP FOR SOMETHING,
SOMETIME IN YOUR LIFE.”
Bear with me for a while folks. Many of you will probably have no connection for this bit of opinion that I am about to put down. This is for a few who need to have a bit of opposition thrown in their face before they go through the farce of ‘discussion’ on a subject that they have their mind made up on and are going to act anyway.
Those of you who know me are aware of the fact that I have many passions and interests in my life. I have done many things that have been a true privilege to do. So let me talk a bit about the greatest job in the world. Even though I have done several that would rank right up there. BUT the greatest job in the world was being a firefighter with the Sedgwick County Fire District Number One. Commonly known as the Sedgwick County Fire Department.
I will not get into the distinctions of the two names it would bore you to death. Suffice it to be that when I joined the department at the original Station 3 (Tyler Road & University) I was 19 years old and the youngest on the department at the time. I do not know if I hold that distinction any more. I had been with a Civil Preparedness unit called Heavy Rescue at age 18.
I rode the tail board out of Station 3 every minute that I could manage. And I managed to drive the deputy chief into finally hiring me. At the time I had qualified for the Wichita Fire Department. My family has a bit of a history with the WFD. I had been with the County about six months when the City called telling me I was up to be hired. I was very happy to be with the County and my relation just about lost their minds when I did not go to the WFD.
The WFD has a very distinct history and is a great department. At the time the County was considered to be a step child to the City. In the last 45 years or so there has been a periodic move by politicians to combine the two departments together.
There are so many differences between the two departments that they can work side by side very smoothly but combined would be a terrible choice.
With out going into a long and boring tale about my career there and my early retirement I want to focus on a couple of things. I grew up with the County Department. When I started the engine, tank, and jeep that I worked with were all older than me. The newer Diesel engines I remember riding in a parade with County Commissioner Earl Rush when the engines had just been delivered. That was in 1971. I graduated high school in 1973 and joined the SCFD in 1974.
When I was active we had two man engine companies and one man tanks, and doubled as jeep driver. Two of the crew would go out on the Squad on medical and rescue calls leaving the station short.
When the City rolled in men rolled off the trucks. It was a promotion to become the driver, or Engineer, of the truck. My third shift after hiring on,I was the driver. Because the only other man was the officer. In fact I rode the ‘seat’ as acting lieutenant at about 17 months on the job. (we had to learn the job real fast).
I did not want to retire but there were health issues and politics that force me to. Ever since I have watched the SCFD grow into one of the best fire departments in the nation. I believe it is still the 4th largest in Kansas. I am proud of them. but politics also let some of the great things slide. Since the chief retired that I worked for each chief has been brought in from outside the department. The main reason, I believe, was to work towards the political favorite topic of consolidation.
I was delighted as the new Chief Williams was announced that the SCFD had finally been allowed to have one of their own move up into the leadership role. And from my long ago remembrances I think Chief Williams is a good choice. Until I read the official story in the Eagle.
The old consolidation is part of his being promoted. You can dismiss me as a long retired old fart that has loyalties to the old department. But you cannot shut me up when the people who the SCFD has long served and who, in many places, have been shunned from the location of stations where they should be. There has been a movement from the areas that need better service to placing stations in more call rich areas.
Do you think that a City-County fire department will maintain or improve the service to their tax payers? The track record of the combined EMS shows where the elected officials loyalty lies. when the one EMS unit that serves the entire western half of Sedgwick County is moved closer to Wichita you know where the priorities lay.
Since I moved away from the politics of Sedgwick County and the overshadowing of Wichita on their neighbors, I have been very blessed. We don’t have the tax base and petty politics here to worry about much more than getting a new truck for Lake City FD because the other stations keep wearing out their trucks first.
I warn the residents of the Fire district in Sedgwick County to not let the big brother take your fire department away from you. Instead of outlying stations being built, the WFD will not have to build anymore and just take over the county stations.
If there is any other question about the loyalty that the WFD will have for you just ask Andale. When the WFD ordered an Ariel already deployed on St. Joseph Church into going back to Wichita in violation of the mutual aid agreement. Wichita just doesn’t care about the fires in the county or the small towns.
Stations that should have been built, will never be built. Areas that have long be loyal to the SCFD and have had much delayed response times, will be ignored again.
I have not been in a SCFD station in a long time. Yet I still love the department. Combining the two fire departments will be the worst service to the citizen of Sedgwick County that has ever been.
Just my opinion. But I can tell you why if you cared to set down and ask me about loyalty.