Wamego firefighter death reinforces risk volunteers take

TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) -- The death of volunteer firefighter John Randle in Wamego reinforces what volunteers risk when they sign up to help their community.

Randle responded to a fire in Wamego Monday around 5 a.m. Back at the station, he slipped off a truck while loading a hose. He died the next day at Stormont-Vail

"John was one that always was at special events, helping new firefighters along the way I can’t say enough about his dedication to our community." Wamego Fire Chief Phil Stultz said.

Danger, time, and compensation are what Soldier Township Battalion Chief Chad Lady says make it difficult to recruit new volunteers. But once they sign up, they become part of a close-knit community which makes Wamego's loss so tough.

"Unfortunately accidents just happen. The Wamego incident was exactly that it was an accident, I don’t think that was a foreseen incident,” Battalion Chief Lady said. “When we go into a structure fire those things are things we know we are going in to."

Randle was the third volunteer to lose their life in the last two years in Kansas.

Lady says the risks may be one reason Kansas and the nation are seeing a shortage of volunteer firefighters.

"I think some people are cautious and don’t necessarily want to put themselves at risk. Which is what we do,” Lady said. “Some departments don’t pay their volunteers.”

Kansas lost two volunteer firefighters in 2016. In July of that year, Hoyt firefighter Michael Schultz was killed when the tanker truck he was driving to a parade blew a tire on Highway 75. Just a few months earlier, in February 2016, Grantville's Assistant Fire Chief Dan Cool suffered a heart attack hours after responding to an incident, and passed away a few days later.

Lady says 75 percent of the nation’s firefighters are volunteers and low recruiting numbers are causing some departments to close. But the dedication volunteers show their communities is why a sacrifice like Randle's is not forgotten.

“Our department is very heart felt, on the loss of John," Fire Chief Shultz said. "We've lost a good friend, good community member and it's been pretty devastating for our department.”

Battalion chief Lady told 13 NEWS that they will be sending some firefighters for Randle's funeral which is scheduled for 11 a.m. Saturday, January 6, 2018. Blue Township Fire Department will be sending some of their department to help cover fire calls allowing the Wamego fire department to grieve.