Archive for Thursday, February 16, 2006

Calling all volunteers

February 16, 2006

Monday's house fire in Baldwin City needs to serve as a wake-up call on many fronts.

It was only last week that we ran a story quoting Baldwin City Fire Chief Allen Craig on the need for more volunteer fire fighters, especially during the week days. The 3:30 p.m. fire Monday heightened that need.

We were on the scene almost as quickly as the fire department. We had about the same distance to travel. There were only four firemen on the scene immediately and they did as much as humanly possible.

Baldwin has had a long history of a strong volunteer fireman. It used to be that there were double, sometimes triple, the number of firemen available to drop what they were doing and rush to a fire when they occurred from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday.

Those days are gone.

With so many Baldwin residents now working out of town during the day, the numbers just aren't there. Or, are they? If there are those out there who can respond during those times, if the job allows, please step forward. We need you.

But, that wasn't the only problem Monday. The fire hydrant that was located just yards from the home on fire didn't work. Water gushed from it instead of into the hose for use to battle the blaze.

There are other such hydrants in town and they may fail when called on. Let's hope not.

The fire department checks the hydrants and when faulty hydrants are found, they are replaced. That will continue, according to City Administrator Jeff Dingman.

Another big problem with the hydrants in the older parts of Baldwin is they're on 4-inch water lines. They're simply outdated. The city has replaced the lines and hydrants in enough areas to provide proper fire protection. That will also continue, Dingman said.

That was the case Monday, too. While the hydrant immediately at the home failed, two other hydrants were easily reached within a block or two for water. It was unfortunate that the hydrant failed, but it was far from the lone reason the house burned.

First, the call was dispatched as a Lawrence fire. That caused costly time lost before it was discovered. By the time the four Baldwin fire fighters did arrive, the house already had flames shooting from it.

Those four did as much as they could. Then, help arrived from several other departments, including Palmyra and Willow Springs townships. That's when the additional water supply was available.

Unfortunately, it was too late. The house was not destroyed, but it might as well have been. It's a total loss and its occupants, the Stotts family, are now living in a motel.

It's a sad situation. It's also sad we are so desperately in need of volunteer firemen. It's a time-honored service to the community. For anyone who can, please help.

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