Two experienced volunteers have taken on the responsibility of running the Evansville Fire Department following the death on Friday of Chief Matt Potter in a motorcycle crash.
Potter, 47, was riding on Interstate 25 nearly 30 miles south of Buffalo when he was apparently pushed onto the shoulder by a wind gust. As he slowly tried to return to the roadway, according a report from the Wyoming highway Patrol, he lost control of his motorcycle and was ejected.
A firefighter with the Natrona County Fire Protection District for many years, Potter came out of retirement about a year and a half ago to become Evansville's fire chief, according to Ron Reed.
Reed, who has volunteered for the Evansville Fire Department for nine years, has assumed leadership responsibilities in the department along with Chris Icenogle, another volunteer. Reed said the department has responded to a number of medical and fire calls since hearing of Potter's death on Friday afternoon.
"Every time we go out we think of the chief," Reed said.
Potter recently spoke about the challenge of recruiting firefighters for a volunteer department even as those volunteers routinely face hazardous situations, some of them seemingly unnecessary.
On June 10, Potter received and opened an envelope containing a letter and a white powder. Although the powder later was found to be harmless, a hazardous materials response ensued.
Charles Farley, a 55-year-old Evansville man whose application to join the department was denied after a background check revealed a criminal history that included an arson conviction, has been charged federally in connection with the letter.
Potter said he was discouraged that firefighters would be the target of such a hoax when their basic duties are to keep the community safe.
"We try to do everything we can," Potter said following one of Farley's court appearances. "I love this job, and then this happens."
Potter also enjoyed motorcycles, Reed recalled. Potter's wife was riding nearby when the crash occurred at nearly 1 p.m. on Friday.
Reed said Evansville firefighters will continue to protect the community even as they will miss Potter's leadership and expertise.
"The guy was awesome," Reed said. "He knew a little about everything."