Ark City and other area firefighters were busy after Thanksgiving with a grass fire Friday and two structure fires early Sunday.
According to Ark City Fire Chief Christopher Ledeker Monday morning, crews battled a grass fire Friday south of Ark City near 312th Road. The blaze burnt 20-plus acres.
Early Sunday morning after midnight, firefighters were called further south to 326th road for a large barn that was on fire. Crews were able to contain and extinguish the fire. At least half of the barn was severely damaged, the fire department said.
Less than 45 mins later Sunday, ACFD was dispatched to a structure fire at Meadow Walk Apartments. With the help from automatic aid partners, Winfield FD and Udall FD, fire personnel were able to quickly extinguish the fire and limit the damage. Pets, including cats and a guinea pig, were rescued by firefighters. Occupants of the apartments were already out of the building by the time crews arrived.
Both the barn and apartment fires are under investigation.
In its Facebook post on the activity, the fire department also addressed comments it says have been circulated by a former member of the department.
“ACFD would like to address the noise, and that is exactly what it is, NOISE, that is coming from a disgruntled, recent, EX-member of our department that has created multiple fake social media posts, trying to discredit our department and it’s personnel. (Kudos to our younger generation of fire personnel, as they were quickly able to discover how the accounts were made and by whom),” the department said. “This comes from a person who has several misconduct issues prior to the new chief’s arrival.
“This is a shame and very disrespectful to all our hardworking, dedicated personnel who put their lives on the line everyday! Wonderful people who are called in on their days off, taken from their families, to keep our great community safe.
“They deserve and have earned much respect and to have someone try to discredit their hard-work is unacceptable.”
Ledeker was hired as the new fire chief in September. The department says with new leadership comes changes.
“ACFD is currently transitioning to an advanced level of professionalism, accountability, efficiency, fiscal responsibility and increased effectiveness, with an emphasis on personal conduct and personnel management that our department has not experienced in many years,” the department said. “Through this transition, the excellent emergency services provided to our community have not been affected and will only improve.”
The department says it has expanded its recruitment efforts, adding more fire personnel to the department than it ever has. The department has filled open, full-time positions with experienced firefighter/ems personnel, increased the number of reserve firefighters, part-time firefighter/paramedics and firefighters from over 15 applicants within a couple months.
“A command staff has been created and the chain-of-command is distinctly defined,” the fire department said. “The department has a full-time training officer for the first time, saving the community thousands of dollars and creating in-house training opportunities that are lacking.
“Change can be hard, but through perseverance, dedication, hard work, and much prayer, the department will continue to improve to meet the needs of the community and accomplish each goal set forth.
“We appreciate the continued support! We ask you to pray for all department personnel, our chief, for the city administration and council members.”