December 15, 2010
A man used to dealing with other people's troubles is facing one of his own. The Emergency Manager of Saline County's home was destroyed by fire late Tuesday night. Now other county employees are reaching out to help.
"I got the call this morning from our county administrator, and my first thought was, are they okay?," said Saline County Commissioner John Reynolds.
Firefighters responded to Saline County Emergency Manager Joe Koch's home just before 10:30 p.m. Tuesday to find flames and smoke pouring from the structure. As they arrived, fire crews already knew who the home belongs to.
"He said, 'Well we got out, we had a plan. You need a plan.' He's teaching right through his own tragedy," said Reynolds.
"He always says, 'Well I'm right here by the fire station so if my house ever catches on fire... you know just joking. And it did," said Saline County Fire District Number 2 Chief Jim Preston.
The fire destroyed the roof and top floor of the home. It took about 40 firefighters five hours to put it out.
"It's looking like it was a chimney fire, and it extended up clear to the roof rapidly," said Preston.
Damage estimates are in the hundreds of thousands as firefighters say much of the inside was destroyed, as the roof collapsed and forced crews to go on the defensive.
"We just dread anytime we have something come out this time of year, family loses Christmas gifts in the fire and we see it every year," said Preston.
Now county employees are reaching out to help, spreading the word and collecting money to help the man who generally is there to help others in an emergency.
"Just extremely good people, they've really assimilated into this community, and we're going to do everything we can to get them back in shape," said Reynolds.
Six different departments responded to the fire. Firefighters say it took about twice as long to put out the blaze as a normal house fire. A few firefighters suffered very minor injuries and were treated on scene.