Operations

The Operations Division of the Fire Department's primary function is emergency response. The Fire Department has 91 response personnel operating out of 6 fire stations that cover over 105 square miles of Hutchinson and Reno County Fire District #2.
 
We work with area departments through mutual aid agreements for managing large building and wildland fires. In addition, the Department provides Hazardous Materials and Technical Rescue Services to all of Reno County. We also have agreements with the Environmental Protection Agency to respond with our Hazardous Materials Team to Cheyenne Bottoms and Quivera National Wildlife Refuge for pipeline releases and other oil field emergencies that can affect wildlife and the environment.
Building on Fire
Our Structural Collapse Specialists (part of the Technical Rescue Team) along with 3  Department supervisors recently responded to the Greensburg Tornado Incident to perform search and rescue functions, as well as manage general fire and hazardous materials operations. Other department members staffed fire apparatus and spent several days manning fire apparatus at the Greensburg event.
 
We encourage you to look through our articles on this page as well as the other Fire Department pages. We hope to keep this section up to date with recent fires and other response related items.
 
Kim Forbes Fire Chief
Incident Management Teams
By Battalion Chief Rod Neufeld

In the fall of 2005, the Hutchinson Fire Department sent several of its members down to Biloxi Mississippi to help after Hurricane Katrina. Last year we sent members to Greensburg after the tornado and to Montgomery County after the flooding. In all 3 cases our members went there to help, but in all three cases our mission was different.

In Biloxi our members staffed fire stations to provide fire protection to the area, much as we do here on a day to day basis. In Greensburg, the mission was search and rescue. In Montgomery County, specifically Independence and Coffeyville, the mission was incident management. Most people are familiar with fire departments responding to disasters for fire protection and for search and rescue capabilities like the federal USAR Teams. Not many are familiar with Incident Management Teams (IMT's).

In any disaster, the efficient and effective use of all the resources on hand to mitigate the problem requires an efficient and effective management team. In order to get all available assistance from the federal government the National Incident Management System (NIMS) must be used. In a disaster, as the numbers of resources on the ground continue to grow, so does the number of people required to manage them.

Incident Command System
Most people are familiar with the Incident Command System where every incident has to have an Incident Commander. He is in charge and responsible for the outcome. As we all know, the IC can have several people working for him. His Command Staff include the Safety Officer, Liaison Officer, and Public Information Officer. His General Staff include the Operation Section Chief, Planning Section Chief, Finance Section Chief, and the Logistics Section Chief.
Incident Command System Flowchart
I believe that most of us are pretty familiar with the Operation Section Chief position. When an incident gets so big that it stretches the IC's span of control, he assigns an Operations Chief to take care of operations. I think very few of us ever thought we would assign someone to Planning, Finance, and Logistics. We thought those positions were only assigned on large wildland fires in California when they had several thousand firefighters working on 1 fire.

It became very evident in Greensburg and Montgomery County that a fully staffed and well trained Incident Management Team is crucial and that all of the Command and General Staff positions should be staffed. Not only should they be staffed but each Section Chief should be assigned several staff members to assist him. For example, if I were to be sent somewhere to be the Planning Section Chief I would request at least 3 more staff so that I can assign a Documentation Unit Leader, a Resource Status Unit Leader, and a Situation Status Unit Leader. I found through experience that it takes that many people to have a successful Planning Section.
I admit I never dreamed we would ever have the need to assign a Planning Section at an incident, let alone staff it with 3 Unit Leaders. In Coffeyville it was very evident that a fully staffed Incident Management Team can make a difference.

Incident Management Teams
Last year when a community needed management staff they would request it through the Kansas Dept. of Emergency Management. They would call around to different departments and see if anyone could go that had experience in those areas. Things are much better now. There are people registered with the Kansas Department of Emergency Management (KDEM) that have been trained specifically for certain management positions. In our 19 county South Central Kansas Region we have 3 fully trained Incident Management Teams on call for deployment anywhere in the state.
Planning Section Organization
In February, 4 members of our department attended training in Hayesville that focused on Incident Management Teams. Deputy Chief Mike Patterson and Battalion Chiefs Darin Gehring, Mike Miller, and Rod Neufeld, participated in 6 days of training that concentrated on Command and General Staff functions. All are now members of one of the 3 IMT's that may be deployed in the event of a disaster anywhere in the state, or for that matter, anywhere in the country. This is a 2-year commitment on the part of the member and the Hutchinson Fire Department. These members must be ready to respond within 8 hours and must be self-sufficient for at least 72 hours at the disaster site.
The Task Force Concept
In March 2006, the Hutchinson Fire Department experienced its worst single wildland fire in over 30 years. Sixteen Fire Departments from five Counties some as far away as Salina were called to help. Overall, more than 4,000 acres burned and destroyed or damaged 40 structures. In January, prior to the Obee Road Fire, the Hutchinson Fire Department sent units to Harvey County for an 8,000-acre fire that burned for 3 days. There were many lessons learned from both incidents.

The greatest lesson learned from these fires was the development of the "Task Force Concept" Although not a new concept on the west coast or national forest regions, it had never been put to use in our region before the Obee Road Fire. Previous tactics required the brush units to exit the fire area and drive in the case of the Obee Road Fire up to 5 miles for water. Firefighting groups could not be effectively supervised and the fire gained an advantage when the operating truck left for up to 30 minutes to go and get a load of water.  Congestion at the fill site was also a problem with narrow country roads limiting the fill engine to only fill one truck at a time while many other units waited.  
Hutchinson Fire Apparatus
Rubble after the Obee Road Fire
Communications at the scene was terrible with many departments on different frequencies and even different bands of frequencies. Our solution to both issues rested with finding an available supervisor with a common radio and establishing a "Task Force" that included at least one Water Tender, one Structural Engine, and two to four brush units and a supervisor that could communicate with the Incident Commander. The only unit to leave the operational area would be the water tender to retrieve a load of water to support the actual firefighting crews. The entire task force would be assigned to Rehab when appropriate, solving the accountability issue.

We are continuing to improve our Task Force concepts and operating protocols and are encouraging neighboring departments and Counties to follow suit.
Hazardous Materials Team
The Hutchinson Fire Department Hazmat Team was formed in 1997 to safely mitigate emergencies involving hazardous material leaks/spills within our jurisdiction, provide mutual aid assistance and maximize the use of limited resources.

The Hutchinson Fire Department Hazmat Team consists of 31 hazardous materials technicians. Team members receive specialized training in hazardous material handling techniques, including NFPA competencies at the Awareness, Operational, and Technician levels. This Hazardous Materials training is ongoing, and includes monthly training, periodic, drills, and annual exercises.

Hutchinson and Reno County have numerous facilities containing hazardous materials necessary for manufacture or operations. Additionally, transportation corridors to major industrial complexes beyond our jurisdiction pass directly through Reno County (including K61, U.S. 50, and major railroads). With more than 50,000 registered chemicals in use today, the risk to public safety is answered through the efforts of the Hutchinson Hazmat Team. In 2006 alone, the Haz-Mat Team responded to several incidents requiring mitigation of spilled fuel, anhydrous ammonia, and denatured alcohol.
Hazardous Materials Team Inside a Truck
Hazardous Materials Team Decontaminating a Team Member
Technical Rescue
The Hutchinson Technical Rescue Team was formed in 1997 to respond to and safely mitigate rescues involving high-rise buildings, grain elevators, bridges and radio towers. The team's responsibility extends to include confined spaces and structural collapses as well. The Technical Rescue Team is based at Station #4, located at 11th and Halstead Street. The team's primary vehicles are Engine 4, Squad 4, and AP4.

The TRT consists of 32 members from the Hutchinson Fire Department. All team members are trained in current rope rescue practices and confined space rescue techniques. Department training is ongoing and includes monthly training and annual exercises.

Simulated Rescue at the Kansas Underground Salt Museum. These pictures were taken at about the 450-foot depth in the elevator shaft.
Two Technical Rescue Teammembers
Two Technical Rescue Team Members Descending a Shaft