Neodesha Fire Department rebuilding after plant explosion


NEODESHA, Kan. (KSNW) – They’re a tough group of firefighters, the men and women of Neodesha.

“It kind of felt like the earthquakes we had been having in Oklahoma. That is what everybody thought it was at first.”

The group proved it on November 22 when a gas plant explosion shook the town.

Twenty two fire departments helped battle the blaze.

For Landon Woodard, it was up close and personal.

“It took out a portion of the wall, the entire roof, it picked me up and threw me against the fire truck,” says Woodard.

The blast threw him face first into engine 632, and he left his mark.

Some gauges on the outside of the truck were not damaged or melted by the heat of the flames because Landon was covering them.

He literally had to pull himself off of the truck.

Woodard recovered but old 632 never really did. The fire left it with melted lights, finicky gauges and a damaged electrical system used to raise the ladder.

It was too expensive to repair even with insurance.

The city awarded the department $25,000 and by combining it with the insurance check, Chief Duane Banzet says, they were able to get a new truck.

“The city itself really saw the need for us having it after this fire,” says Banzet.

It’s the new and improved 632, and it’s an upgrade in every sense of word.

“You can do more, plus it is more stable. You can have two fireman up here (in the ladder) and actually have two working water guns at the same time,” says Woodard.

The heat and chemicals were also tough on firefighters’ gear.

Chief Banzet says his department got 11 sets of brand new bunker gear to suit up in.

The new truck and equipment signifies the department moving forward, but they’re also a stark reminder of the dangers they face every day.

“Do you still think about the incident? Yeah”, says Woodard.

He adds, “You count your blessings. The first incident I should have been dead in.”

Chief Banzet says they are also trying to get new boots and new hoses.

He says he is in the process of applying for a federal grant that he says could play an important role in funding the new equipment.

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