Fairmount Township Fire Department adds full-time administrator
In just a year, Chief Chuck Magaha of the Fairmount Township Fire Department was able to meet three goals he set when he took over the department’s leadership role.
His first goal was to get EMS services inside the station, which also was a goal for Basehor city officials and was approved by the county for 2016 over the summer.
Second, he hoped to get the fire department’s rating with the Insurance Service Office moved up from Class 6 — and it has been improved to Class 4.
Finally, he hoped to hire a full-time administrator to oversee the department’s volunteer and part-time staffers.
“One of my goals when I took over as chief was to start building a 24-7 operation,” he said. “To do that, I knew that we were going to have to have continuity in staffing.”
This final goal was reached in August when Mike Lingenfelser joined the department.
“We don’t do a real good job of tooting our own horns, and we probably should,” Magaha said. “We had our open house here last weekend, 350 people give or take … and it amazes me because people come up here and think that we have a full-time department.”
Lingenfelser will oversee day-to-day operations, from scheduling, completing reports, daily inspections, fire prevention services, and station and equipment maintenance, among other things.
“We were doing that before, but it was kind of piece-mealed,” Magaha said. “ … What was happening was that as people get (other) jobs, they can’t work during the daytime any longer. It was just getting to be too much for us to make sure that we had the next person in line to take that person’s position.”
Lingenfelser’s first major duty is to determine the best use of part-time firefighters during the day, whether for eight, 10 or 12-hour shifts. He said he has been working on a needs analysis, reviewing the calls from the last few years.
“Figuring out when the majority of calls are coming in so we know when we’re going to get the best bang for our buck,” Lingenfelser said. “Then also looking at what time the volunteers are still available when they get home from work ... long-range, we want to be 24-hour coverage, seven days a week, but we’re going to start right now with what we can afford and what we can get done.”
And the need for more coverage is growing — Magaha said the number of emergency response calls this year is already ahead of last year, continuing a steady pattern of growth over the last three years.
Lingenfelser additionally will oversee adjustments needed at the station for the EMS ambulance and staff who will need overnight sleeping quarters, as well as the department’s cadet academy, which this year includes six seniors from Basehor-Linwood High School.
And Lingenfelser certainly has the background to do it all. He has been a volunteer with the Kickapoo Township Fire Department since 1982, where he is now treasurer of the township board, and he was with the Leavenworth Fire department for 30 years, spending his last nine years there as the assistant chief in charge of operations.
He also worked for Kansas University’s Fire and Rescue Training Institute as an associate instructor and part-time training coordinator from 2003 to this year.
“I’ve seen how a volunteer department operates, been part of a paid department, plus with KU, I’ve actually been around the state to different departments for training, so I’ve seen departments with a whole lot of money and departments that didn’t even have a restroom in their station,” Lingenfelser said.
Lingenfelser said he had retired a year ago and wasn’t necessarily looking for other work, but when he saw the Fairmount position listed, it piqued his interest.
“When I saw the job description, I kind of went down it like, ‘I’ve done that, I’ve done this, I do this, I’ve done this,’” he said. “It was not only a good fit for Chuck it was what I’m experienced at doing … I’ve enjoyed so far coming down here every day. It’s a challenge and I enjoy finding the answers and making things work.”
Magaha said the department had about six candidates qualified for the administrator position, and he is glad that both an independent reviewer from the Kansas Department of Emergency Management and the township board selected Lingenfelser.
“I feel very fortunate that we ended up with Mike,” Magaha said. “He’s just a good fit. He’s community-minded, and he knows both the inside and out as far as the fire service is concerned.”