Wednesday, May 18, 2022

Heroes We Should Not Forget


Hays, Kansas Fire Station
Photo Credit:  Lyn Fenwick

Always on the lookout for Kansas history, I spotted this statue at the Hays, Kansas Fire Station.  As I wandered back into the corner of the station, I noticed a Plaque.  

Photo Credit:  Lyn Fenwick

The plaque  was a "Memoriam of Our Fallen Firefighters," and the two names on the plaque--Stephen H. Tourtillot and Nicholas Arnold--shared a common date.  After doing some research, I learned that the date was the day they died in the line of duty as firefighters for the city of Hays.
In searching to learn more about the two men, I discovered that they are honored at the Kansas Firefighters Museum, a museum of which I was unaware.  

I learned that the last horse drawn fire station built in Wichita, Fire Station #6 was completed in 1909, and had 2 horses, Tom and Dick, and four fire fighters.  When Wichita became an all motorized fire department, it was the first such fully motorized fire department in the U.S. and the second in the world.  With no longer a need for a horse drawn Fire Station, #6 was used for other purposes, and in the 1980s it became a storage facility.  

Faced with the possibility of abandonment, Station #6 was rescued in 1993 when the Historic Preservation Alliance of Wichita and Sedgwick County formed the "Friends of Engine House No. 6" with the idea of restoring it as the Kansas Firefighters' Museum.  In 1994 it was placed on both the Registers of the Kansas and the National Historic Places.  Both Stephen H. Tourtillot and Nicholas Arnold are recognized in those places.
Both of these men died while fighting a fire at Ninth & Oak streets in Hays.  According to the Fire Fighters' Museum, they were killed when 3 Standard Oil gas lines exploded.  Also killed were six bystanders, and 150 others were injured.

I will close by quoting from the obituary for Stephen H. Tourtillott, published in The Hays Free Press.  "Monday morning he left home for work and with his usual energy at the call of duty entered into the work of trying to save the property around the burning tanks.  He was one of the victims of the explosion.  He was carried to the hospital where all was done that love and skill could do but he left this world of sorrow at 11:15 that afternoon.  He is survived by his wife, four children, his father and four brothers and their families."

Everyday, somewhere, firefighters face danger, trying to save us and our property.  I chose to do the research and share the story of these two men as a way to thank so many firefighters who have faced danger to protect us, sometimes at the cost of their lives. 

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