…they called Manhattan Fire Department, who at that time couldn’t assist in rural areas that didn’t have a fire department. They called the Sheriff, who said there was no fire department in that area. Eventually neighbors formed a bucket brigade and saved the shop. Brooks’ then decided it was time to organize a fire department. About the same time, the US Forest Service had started providing funding and a source for surplus military equipment to state forestry agencies for establishing rural fire protection, so Kansas Forest Service assisted in obtaining used military vehicles to start with, and getting the process started to organize a fire district.
In 1967, Pottawatomie County Fire District #5 was officially organized, and John Brooks became the first chief. He served in that capacity for a number of years. He, his sons, and some neighbors started with a used jeep with a simple tank and pump, parked in a private garage. It was a very simple, low-budget start, but a significant leap forward from what had been.
Over the years that followed, additional people from the community joined the department, and equipment was slowly upgraded. The community also began to change, from a sparsely populated rural area to a growing suburban bedroom community, with new housing developments around Tuttle Creek, and all over the south end of the district. By the 1980’s the department had an engine, a tanker/tender, and a couple of brush trucks, all housed on Scottie Lane. As the community and the department grew, it became necessary to expand the fire station. Four new truck bays were added in the late 80’s, and what had been truck bays was converted to office space, a classroom, and a break room. Later a bunk room and weight room/exercise area were added as well. Another change that occurred during the 80’s was moving a small fire engine to a private shed on Cedar Creek Road in the north part of the district. The Borg family donated space for the truck for a number of years, and having that truck there resulted in insurance savings for many property owners in the north area of the fire district. That arrangement was replaced in 2000 by an actual fire station, Station #2 located on Dyer Road.
There have been many other equipment upgrades and improvements in the last fifteen years. BTFD was the first fire department between Salina and Topeka to have a live-burn facility where firefighters could train in fighting a real structure fire. An ATV and two UTVs were added, all at no acquisition cost, to address both wildfires and the annual Country Stampede, at which BTFD runs more calls in four days than the biggest cities in Kansas due in an average four day period. Old, used engines were replaced with new engines with much greater capabilities.
Our firefighters are always looking for ways to improve equipment or training. As our community grows, our members, officers, and board, are continuously looking at ways we can improve our services to meet the growing needs. We are all looking forward to seeing what our department will look like in the future.