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All of Hesston KS

Hesston Fire & EMS History

Hesston Fire Department
Hesston, Kansas in 1921 was a thriving agricultural town like many other rural Kansas communities. As was common in many small towns of the day, if a fire broke out you would have to depend on your neighbors to come quickly and perform one of two duties. Either they would attempt to salvage your belongings before the fire overwhelmed them or they would use the resources they had such as buckets of water in an attempt to extinguish the fire before it got too large.
1972 Ford F-700 Barton American Pumper Engine 53 - Left to Right - Lee Peters, Weldon Bud Bachman, Lyle Bitikofer, Russ Buller, Lonnie Buller
1972 Ford F-700 Barton American Pumper
L to R: Lee Peters, Weldon "Bud" Bachman, Lyle Bitikofer,
Russ Buller, Lonnie Buller
This was the case on the morning of April 8th, 1921 when the majority of the west side of Main Street burned and threatened to destroy the entire Hesston community. Bucket brigades were established to fight the fire and fire companies from Moundridge and Newton were called but many buildings were lost. This spurred the recently incorporated City of Hesston to recruit and equip a volunteer fire department. Fire Chief S.N. Nunemaker called the first organizational meeting of the newly formed Hesston Fire Department on July 29th, 1921. That same month the fire department received the city’s first firefighting apparatus in the form of a human drawn chemical cart that through the use of a chemical reaction would create a pressurized water stream to be used for fire attack. In 1929 the city upgraded the manually pulled apparatus by mounting the firefighting equipment on the back of a Model A Ford truck which remained in service until replaced with a more modern pumper in 1957. Beginning in 1950, under the 25 year leadership of Fire Chief Russell Nebergall followed by 15 years under Fire Chief Weldon “Bud” Bachman, more advancements were incorporated into our firefighting apparatus including larger pumps, more water carrying capacity and a larger firefighter staff. Technological advancements such as a compressed air foam firefighting system and a 75’ aerial have been added in more recent years to keep our department at the forefront of firefighting capability.

Hesston Ambulance Department
In 1959 the sick and injured in rural Kansas were taken to a doctor or the hospital by either private vehicle or by the funeral home responding and transporting in their hearse. After witnessing several events where care
1960s Hesston Rescue Unit MDS ambulance - Personnel unknown
1960s Hesston Rescue Unit/MDS "ambulance"
Personnel unknown
and transport were delayed, a group of local citizens felt they could offer assistance to those in medical need and had their first organizational meeting on May 20, 1959. They established the Hesston Rescue Team with Kenneth Miller elected the first chairman. Their original goal was to assist victims in times of disaster but after receiving first aid training and realizing a greater need in the community, they made the decision to provide ambulance service to the Hesston area. These original volunteers utilized their personal station wagons and volunteered their time to provide ambulance transport to local hospitals. In 1963 this group became incorporated with the State of Kansas under the organization name Hesston Rescue Unit. The Hesston Rescue Unit operated the ambulance service until January of 1975 when the City of Hesston formed the new city department called the Hesston Ambulance Department.
1977 Chevrolet Horton Type 1 Ambulance - Ambulance 52 – Left to Right -  Russ Buller, Lyle Bitikofer, Lonnie Buller, Ivan Welty
1977 Chevrolet Horton Type 1 Ambulance
L to R: Russ Buller, Lyle Bitikofer, Lonnie Buller, Ivan Welty
Craig King was appointed the first ambulance chief and operated the department with two ambulances, a 1972 Chevrolet van and a 1968 Chevrolet suburban. Richard (Dick) Toews, one of the original members from 1959, took over as chief in 1976 and lead the department for the next 20 years. In 1989 Hesston Ambulance Department became one of the first services in the State to offer the recently authorized Automated External Defibrillation. In 1992 advanced life support medications, IV capability and endotracheal intubation were added to the medical care offered on the ambulance. In 2002 Hesston Ambulance Chief Russell Buller was hired as the city’s first full-time emergency medical service employee.

Hesston Fire/EMS Department
Hesston Fire EMS LogoIn 2005 the City of Hesston made the decision to merge the operations of the ambulance and fire departments from separately managed entities to a single larger unit called Hesston Emergency Services. Ambulance Chief Russell Buller was named the Director of Emergency Services and was charged with the administration of both Fire and EMS Divisions.
In January of 2016 the Fire and EMS Divisions rebranded and were unified under a newly designed emblem and a new department name, Hesston Fire/EMS.

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