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High school firefighter is in his element

Staff writer

Adam Makovec isn’t likely to forget his first day on the job. Newly named to the Lost Springs fire department, the Centre senior was one of about 50 firefighters battling a blaze in northeastern Marion County that persisted for 17 hours on Oct. 19.

It was his first call as part of the department.

“That was a heck of a long day,” he said.

Makovec was among the first called out, and while the fire was extinguished around 5 p.m., he said he wasn’t released until 8 or 8:30.

“We can’t just park the trucks at the station and leave,” he said. “We have to clean stuff, refuel the trucks, put water back in the trucks, and get them ready to go for the next time.”

The long day was a formidable test, but Makovec was undeterred. He manned the hose to fight the flames, attacking the fire head on.

“There were times you couldn’t see where you were driving, where you were spraying,” he said. “You couldn’t see, you couldn’t breathe, and you had no way of telling where you were going.”

Makovec wasn’t overwhelmed or afraid. He was in his element.

“Lester Kaiser, fire chief at Lincolnville, kept asking me: ‘Are you sure you still want to do this?’ I said, ‘Yes sir,’” Makovec said. “He said, ‘Well, it takes a special individual to fill those shoes.’”

Makovec has had a special desire — “a burning desire,” he called it — to be a firefighter ever since he was little.

“Little kids, you always ask them what they want to be when grow up, most of them say policeman or fireman,” he said. “That’s kind of how I was.”

Most little kids may say that, but most eventually change their minds and end up doing something else. Makovec hasn’t changed his mind, and doesn’t anticipate doing so.

“Being called out to something, once that page goes out, I feel an adrenaline rush,” he said. “It’s fun to feel the rush and the urge to go out and fight the fire.”

He plans to go to Hutchinson Community College to study fire science. He will attend a fire science field day from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Nov. 4 at Hutchinson. He hopes that gives him a better idea of what he wants to do.

Makovec said he would like to stay around the Lost Springs area and work for a while, but he could see himself eventually going to a bigger city such as McPherson, Salina, or Wichita.

Even if he doesn’t stay, Makovec’s been familiar with the guys at the Lost Springs fire department for some time. Chief Brad Pagenkopf and crew have known of his desire to join for a long time, and are happy to have him aboard.

“They like it, they’re really proud of me for all my hard work I’ve put in so far,” he said. “They guide me along.”

Guidance and training can only go so far, however. It’s experience like the Oct. 19 fire that will stick with him forever. The fire drew 12 departments into action from three counties, and Makovec was right where he wanted to be: In the middle of it all.

“It was incredible to be out there and to be a part of everything,” Makovec said. “It was awesome with all the help from everybody too, that was kind of nice. It’s just fun to be a part of that. It makes me feel good to be a part of something I’ve always wanted to do.”

Last modified Oct. 28, 2015

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