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Miami County Emergency Management Coordinator Mark Whelan points out some features of the Osawatomie Volunteer Fire Department’s new 3,000-gallon tanker/tender to county commissioners on April 14. The tender was a key piece of equipment used to battle a raging house fire on Sept. 24.

The County Commission recently learned how firefighters from multiple agencies worked in concert to battle a large house fire.

And commissioners were told that a 3,000-gallon tanker/tender they purchased for the Osawatomie Volunteer Fire Department proved to be a wise investment.

The new tender was a key piece of equipment used to battle a raging house fire Friday, Sept. 24, which displaced two people from their rural Miami County home.

No occupants or firefighters were injured in the fire, Mark Whelan, the county’s emergency management coordinator, told county commissioners at their Wednesday, Sept. 29, meeting.

Just before noon Friday, Sept. 24, Louisburg firefighters responded to a 911 call about a detached garage fire at a residence near the corner of 359th Street and New Lancaster Road. When they arrived on the scene the detached garage was already on the ground but the fire had leapfrogged to the house.

Whelan said the fire made its way into the attic and burned about half the roof off the house. The blaze spread to the first floor on the east side of the home and crept into the basement.

Louisburg responded with two engines, two tenders, a brush rig and Chief Gerald Rittinghouse with 13 volunteers on a Friday afternoon, Whelan told commissioners. Firefighters from Linn Valley, Paola, Osawatomie, Fontana, and Johnson County Fire District No. 2 also responded with both engine and tender crews, he said.

“We had a total of 27 firefighters on the scene fighting this fire, plus Miami County EMS responded with two ambulances and a battalion chief,” said Whelan, who was also on the scene with a sheriff’s deputy. “So we had 34 people on scene.”

He talked about the extraordinary efforts of the firefighters on that unseasonably warm afternoon.

“As soon as they got what was left of the garage knocked down, the firefighters made a very aggressive interior attack in an attempt to save the home,” Whelan said. “Multiple crews were inside doing searches, fighting fire, pulling ceilings, getting into the attic to get to the fire and beginning salvage operations before the fire was even out.”

Whelan said the estimated loss to the house, garage and contents was $275,000.

Most of the contents in the basement will be salvageable, and the two west bedrooms were completely untouched by fire, smoke or water damage, Whelan said.

“That was due to the aggressive work of everybody on the fire,” Whelan said. “On a Friday, having that many volunteers show up, that’s a really good turnout. The guys did a great job.

“The 3,000 (gallon) tender from Osawatomie paid big dividends,” he told commissioners. “The four tenders carried a total of 8,000 gallons. The closest hydrant was 4.5 miles away, so a 9-mile round trip with tenders. (Firefighters) never ran short on water, so they had a very nice shuttle running.”

The Johnson County Fire District No. 2 engine was covering the Louisburg fire station for second calls but later was requested at the house fire.

“We called them in when the crews became exhausted after going through two or three tanks of air and working so hard,” Whelan said.

He said the Johnson County firefighters assisted with salvage and other operations.

Whelan said the state fire marshal’s office was called in to investigate because the cause had not been determined. He emphasized the fire was not suspicious in nature.

“The cause is undetermined at this time but based on what we know it’s looking like electrical,” he told commissioners.

In a follow-up interview, Whelan said both occupants were outside doing yard work when they heard some noise and saw smoke coming from the detached garage and called 911. He said the occupants will be staying with family.

The incident did involve the rescue of one feline family member.

“The cat was rescued unharmed and returned to the owners,” Whelan said.

News Editor Doug Carder can be reached at (913) 294-2311 or doug.carder@miconews.com.

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