By Dr. Ferrell Miller
The Junction City Fire Chief, Jason Lankas, was the guest speaker at the January 12 JC Breakfast Optimist Club’s “Celebration of Optimism”. Jason told club members he was reared in western Kansas. He is one of triplets. Their mother was an EMT and had some influence on his interest in that field. “I learned to drive a truck when I was nine, which might have also prepared me for driving a fire truck”, Jason said.
Jason has a Bachelor of Science degree from Kansas State University. He worked at Rock Springs Ranch for five years in charge of the horses and pool area at the Ranch. In 2003 he applied to be a firefighter in Junction City.
The Chief also stated that when the previous Chief left the area in October of 2020, Jason was asked to be the Interim Fire Chief. During that that time and until now he has faced several challenges. One of those challenges was dealing with COVID-19 with not only patients, but also with his own personnel. “At one point, Station 2 on Lacy Drive had an entire shift out with COVID. The closing of the ICU at Geary Community Hospital and having to transport patients to other hospitals has been difficult. There have been occasions when transport had to be taken as far away as Dodge City, Lincoln and even Omaha, Nebraska. I am trying to get another shift with 14 personnel added to help meet the demand” he said.
Jason also told club members that he is “working on building a third station closer to the new Junction City High School. It currently takes about 8 minutes for our trucks to arrive at either the Junction City Middle School or the new high school from Station 2.”
The recent crisis involving lack of water in the city presented some unique problems. A city without water is dangerous in the case of residential or commercial fire. “Our trucks can only carry 700 gallons of water. The ladder truck can only carry 500 gallons of water. We can get support from Fort Riley and Manhattan”, but water coming only from trucks and not from hydrants may not be enough to handle a large fire.
Then there was the windstorm. During the storm, there were numerous calls about fires in the area when people saw smoke in the sky. “That smoke came from fires in Russell”, the Chief said.
“We are working on trying to get new equipment to help monitor air supplies to firefighters when the firefighters are inside a structure; getting a new $600,000 truck, which takes two years to build; maintaining and improving our water and ice rescue teams to serve the largest lake in Kansas at Milford Lake.”
The JC Breakfast Optimist Club gathers every Wednesday at the Hampton Inn located at 1029 S. Washington Street in Junction City. Guests are always welcome and will receive a free breakfast buffet on their first visit. Breakfast is served at 6:30 AM, the “Celebration of Optimism” begins at 6:50 AM and concludes at 7:30 AM.