Firefighting first set for Holcomb




For the first time ever, the Holcomb Community Fire Department will be hosting firefighters from across the state for a fire training school through the Kansas State Firefighters Association Nov. 16 - 17 at Holcomb High School.

Bill Knight, Holcomb Fire Chief, estimated anywhere from 125 to 200 firefighters from fire departments around the state will attend the fire school on Nov. 16 and 17.

The association offers fire schools several times a year across the state. Holcomb and its fire department, which consists of 20 volunteer firefighters, are probably the smallest communities and department to host one, Knight said.

"It's state of the art training, not just for volunteers. We expect all of Garden City's firefighters to be there, and we've received confirmation from several of the smaller surrounding towns that they'll be there," Knight said. "This is really world-class training for out west here. It's offered quite often in the eastern part of the state and the major cities, but very seldom out here in small towns."

Gary Newman, Holcomb mayor, said hosting the fire school is a positive event for the city, bringing some recognition to the department.

"It's an honor to be able to host it. With so many fire departments and personnel coming through, it speaks highly of Chief Knight's involvement at the local and state level to be able to host it," Newman said.

Newman said it also should help bring some economic benefit locally, mostly to the county, but also to businesses in Holcomb like Ron's Market, which might get a boost with so many people coming to town.

Training will include both classroom and hands-on training in defensive driving, responding to railway emergencies, wildland fires, oil tank battery fires and grain elevator fires. There will also be a live burn trailer and a new Kansas University fire skills trailer on hand.

One of the classes Knight looks forward to his firefighters taking is responding to railway emergencies, a class Knight took a couple of years ago and wanted to bring to Holcomb's fire school. Burlington Northern Santa Fe railroad is bringing in an instructor to offer a detailed class about railroad emergencies.

"Not only will it help with people who have BNSF right of way in their district, but any train engine is set up the same way, by law, for the kill-switch locations, how they work, how they operate, the identification of tank cars," Knight said. "Just from the silhouette of the car, you can tell whether it's high pressure, low pressure, and things like that."

One of the things the public can come out and look at, Knight said, is the brand new Kansas University Fire and Rescue Institute firefighter skills trailer, which will be making one of its first appearances anywhere in the state on Nov. 17 at Holcomb.

The KU skills trainer is built into a 50-foot semi-trailer and offers training in forced entry, ventilation, sprinkler and valve training and a lot of other hands-on training never before offered in a mobile classroom. The specially designed training trailer includes a glass-breaking room, wall-breaching room and forcible entry door.

The KSFFA also will have a live burn trailer on site in which fires can be started.

"Firefighters gear up in all their safety gear, go in, observe the fire's behavior and what different types of water pressures, water patterns will do to knock the fire down, keep the fire under control, prevent a flash over or a more dangerous situation," Knight said. "While the general public wouldn't be able to go in, they can sure come by and visit the facilities. This is the first time KU has brought this trailer out here. It's brand new."

In addition to firefighters, the school has a couple of classes that also will benefit EMTs, such as defensive driving and firefighter rehab. Knight said following a house or grass fire when firefighters have been on scene awhile, they often go to firefighter rehab, where EMS provides oxygen and checks their vital signs. Defensive driving is training Knight requires all Holcomb firefighters to have once each year.

"Those are big trucks. I get a bunch of 19 to 25 year olds driving them. It's extremely important," he said.

Fire school classes are free, paid for by the KSFFA and sponsors. School participants planning to go through the KU skills trainer trailer need to pre-register through KU's website,, or by calling (866) 804-8841.

For more information about the fire school, contact Knight at (620) 277-2250 or (620) 275-5858, or by email at

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