Volunteer departments play an integral role in disaster management

Travis Pohlman checks for hot spots in the trees along Dull Knife Drive in the Highlands community area north of Hutchinson, Kan., on Monday, March 6, 2017. Grass fires fanned by gusting winds scorched swaths of Kansas grassland Monday, forcing the evacuations of several towns and the closure of some roads, including a couple of short stretches of Interstate 70. (Lindsey Bauman/The Hutchinson News via AP)

HUTCHINSON, Kan. (KSNW) – The majority of 1260 square mile Reno County is covered by volunteer fire departments. Chief Bobby White’s fire district covers about 140 square miles in the northwest part of Hutchinson, including the Highlands where fires broke out over the past week.

Volunteer departments play an integral role in disaster relief.

“The expectations are the same, like I tell everybody, the fire doesn’t care who you are, it isn’t going to look at your ID and see whether you’re a full-time firefighter or volunteer firefighter. The fire is what it is and it’s going to do what it’s going to do and you’re either ready for it or you’re not,” Bobby White, fire chief for Reno County district 3 said.

White says his fire district consistently provided 10-15 volunteers per day during the week, battling the blaze and monitoring hot spots.

“The expectations are the same, the dangers are the same, we use all the same equipment, the problem for volunteer departments is consistent staffing,” White said.

Volunteer efforts do not go unnoticed in disaster management.

“Without those groups aiding the fire department, we would have been in big trouble,” Reno County Sheriff Randy Henderson said.