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Kansas Dispatcher, Firefighters Honored

WICHITA, Kan. -- A pair of fire axes, symbolizing courage, dedication and sacrifice, were presented Wednesday to the widow and parents of Sedgwick County, Kan., fire Lt. Bryon Johnson, killed in the line of duty in September while fighting a brush fire near Haysville.

Firefighters from Sedgwick County Fire District No. 1 and members of their families packed into a standing-room-only crowd at Wednesday s County Commission meeting to honor Johnson, along with three fire district employees who tried to save his life.

Family members wept as they silently accepted the two plaques on which the axes were mounted and Johnson s posthumous Line of Duty Death Medal of Valor from Fire Chief Gary Curmode.

We grieve with you and appreciate the ultimate sacrifice Lt. Johnson gave to the citizens of Sedgwick County, Commission Chairman Dave Unruh told the family. The family members declined requests for an interview after the ceremony.

Firefighter Brad Burdick, who risked his life to pull Johnson away from the downed line and gave him cardiopulmonary resuscitation in an attempt to save his life, was awarded the department s Medal of Valor.

The department bestowed its Award of Merit on Firefighter Kenneth DeHoff, who spotted the downed firefighter and, along with Burdick, tried to save him with CPR.

Another Award of Merit went to dispatcher Stephanie Ricker, who handled the communications and dispatch of emergency medical personnel during the incident.

Johnson died Sept. 24 after coming into contact with a downed power line at the scene of the fire, which started when a tractor-trailer hit a utility pole on Broadway.

Johnson was working a hose line when the accident occurred, county Fire Marshal Tim Millspaugh said.

Johnson was the third county firefighter to die in the line of duty. The other deaths were in 1973 and 1990.

Millspaugh said the department is studying what went wrong in the accident and adding additional electrical safety training to its regimen.

We want to find out how we can prevent this, he said. This is something we don t want to get good at, these ceremonies.

Reach Dion Lefler at 316-268-6527.

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