RUSSELL, Kan. (AP) - Fire Chief Earl Hemphill's name is written
in gold lettering on Rescue 1, the fire truck he rode to the scene
of an accident on the day he died.
Hemphill, 61, was directing traffic at the crash scene in April
when he was struck by another fire truck. He died a short time
later.
As the city dedicated Rescue 1 to Hemphill on Saturday,
firefighters noted that Hemphill had worked tirelessly to get a new
truck for the department he served for 35 years.
"This truck was truly his pride and joy," firefighter Steve
Knopp said.
Sam Schmidt, now the department's interim fire chief, said the
department always struggled to buy new or improved equipment.
Hemphill worked every day to change that, Schmidt said.
The department bought its first Jaws of Life rescue tool in
1979, after countless fund-raisers. An old van converted to carry
the tool was so overloaded with equipment that it struggled to
carry firefighters to crash scenes.
At the time, the city's newest fire truck was 20 years old.
To get a newer fire truck, Hemphill led the department in a
citywide door-to-door survey. The department eventually got a grant
from the state Department of Commerce and Housing. Rescue 1 rolled
into town in the spring of 2001.
Knopp recalled that on the day he drove the truck from its South
Dakota manufacturer to Russell, Hemphill called several times to
check on him and to find out how the truck was running. When he
finally arrived at the Russell Fire Station, Knopp said, Hemphill
acted like a kid on Christmas morning.
Schmidt said this is not the first time fire equipment has been
dedicated in someone's honor. Other Russell fire equipment carries
the names of former city manager G.J. Boyd; George Laubhan, the
city's first paid fire chief; and Doran Dole, a volunteer
firefighter for more than 50 years and the father of former U.S.
Sen. Bob Dole.


(Copyright 2002 by The Associated Press