Longtime Ozawkie fireman to be honored

Bob Holliday

Photo by Clarke Davis
Bob Holliday will be honored at a reception at the Ozawkie Township Hall Sunday afternoon. He has served the 25-square-mile fire district for 26 years, many of them as the fire chief.


by Clarke Davis
Robert “Bob” Holliday is retiring after spending the past 26 years serving as a volunteer on the Ozawkie Fire Department.
The community will have an opportunity to express its thanks at a reception in Holliday’s honor from 2 to 4 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 9, at the township hall.
Holliday served many of those years as chief of the department, but stepped down to assistant chief in 2004 when he retired as a machinist with the BNSF Railway.
“We began spending the winter months in Arizona so I gave up the chief’s job,” he said.
The late Jack McNary followed him as chief and heading the department today is Dan Rosencutter.
Along with being assistant fire chief in recent years, he was also the safety officer for the department.
“Safety was part of the culture and a big issue that was stressed on the job with BNSF, so it was a natural for me to look after the safety of the firemen,” he said. “I did not want anyone to get hurt.”
He attended the National Fire Academy and attended numerous training schools sponsored by the KU Fire Training Institute. In turn, he led many training sessions for the Ozawkie firefighters.
“We’ve been told Ozawkie is the most over-trained and under-used fire department in the country,” he said.
In looking back, Holliday said one of the best things to happen was the creation of the Jefferson County Firefighters Association. By joining together through a mutual aid pact, small rural districts began coming to each others’ assistance providing additional manpower and water hauling capabilities. Holliday served as president of the associaton for two or three years.
He recalled a number of large fires in Valley Falls, Perry, and Oskaloosa that benefited greatly by the additional help. The biggest fire he confronted in Ozawkie was Donna’s, a large restaurant and one of the town’s few businesses.
“Every district now gets help on  a structure fire,” he said.
It also benefited Ozawkie by getting some better equipment. When he came on as chief, the department had a 1948 Ford fire truck and a 1951 International tanker, and one grass truck.
As clerk of the township board he began pushing for better equipment and the district finally acquired a 1969 International with greater pumping ability. The used truck cost $47,500 and was acquired in Iowa.
Politics being what it was, it took several town hall meetings to come to a consensus on that project, he said.
“When I joined, firefighters were given a vinyl jacket, hip boots, and fire helmet. There were no gloves,” he said.
Getting better bunker gear to protect the volunteers was the next project along with better communications.
He said that was one thing the firefighters association did on a county level. The fire departments worked together to encourage the county commissioners to develop the emergency 911 system, which brought better communication and a better addressing system. It also sponsored countywide training schools.
Holliday, 72, was born at Holton and his family moved to Neodosha when he was 4 and then to Topeka. He is a graduate of Seaman High School and spent four years in the Navy.
His ties to Ozawkie started in 1967 when Ozawkie was new. The town was incorporated and moved to higher ground with the coming of Perry Lake.
“I helped build my parents’ house here in 1967 and I don’t recall there being more than four or five houses in the town at that time,” he said.
He and his wife, Carolyn, lived in Topeka and then moved to the house he helped build in Ozawkie in 1985.
He also lays claim to being among those who were the first to put a boat on Perry Lake. He said a nine-inch rain created a pending flood and they closed the gates to the dam in 1967, two or three years before the Corps of Engineers intended to impound water.
Holliday named Dan Moore, Leon Brunton, and Larry Knudsen as friends he joined to take a boat ride on the lake following that flood. The Corps of Engineers soon emptied the lake and finished the project.
Bob and Carolyn raised two children. Their daughter, Susan Gaschen, resides at Indian Ridge subdivision and teaches at Jefferson County North. Their son, Rob Holliday, resides at Tuscon, Ariz., and is employed by Safari Club International. They have three grandchildren.

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Posted by on Aug 12 2015. Filed under Featured, The Vindicator. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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