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Lack of volunteer firefighters a concern

Fran Brownell
Special to St. John News
A Stafford County volunteer firefighter fights a wildfire. Stafford County Fire Director Marshal Sanders said the Radium Fire Department had to call on neighboring fire departments twice in 2019 to combat wildfires when only one volunteer responded to alarms.

RADIUM — The Radium Fire Station in Stafford County will continue to provide services to more than 30 residents who call this community home despite a shortage of volunteer firefighters.

Lack of volunteer firefighters for the town of Radium, which is about 30 miles northwest of St. John, was brought to the Stafford County Commission by county fire director Marshal Sanders.

“We were concerned about the lack of response,” said Stafford County Commissioner Todd Wycoff, who represents Radium constituents. "We have had several fires where only one firefighter responds or sometimes, none at all."

Wycoff and fellow Stafford County Commissioner Clayton Grimmett met with Stafford County fire personnel in December 2019 to discuss whether to shut down the Radium Fire Station for lack of response.

According to draft minutes of the Dec. 4 Stafford County commissioners, there were 13 fires paged out to the Radium station to that date, with only one firefighter responding to two calls, both of which were wildfires.

In those situations, calls were made to neighboring fire departments in the county for help, Sanders said.

Despite that low-response dilemma, Marshal said the Radium Fire Department issue has been resolved.

“It’s been pretty much settled,” Sanders said earlier this week. “We’ve got people in the process of training to bring available volunteers up to a full staff of six.”

Along with the St. John and Radium Fire Districts, Stafford County has four additional districts — Hudson, Seward, Macksville and Stafford.

“They are all very active fire departments. They have good responses,” Wycoff said.

Radium Fire Department Volunteer Clayton McAllister said Sanders has been to the Great Bend Coop Radium Branch to recruit volunteers who are paid $15 per response to a fire call.

Sanders said it is up to employers whether or not the volunteers are given time off with pay.

Most of the calls to the Radium Fire Department are for wildfires, Sanders said.

“Wildfire are a threat to property and lives of farm animals and wildlife,” Sanders said. “We take them very seriously.”

Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly has designated Feb. 3-7 as Wildfire Awareness Week.