Retiree Keeps Fire In His Life With Service

Judy Kramer
County Reporter
Jim Summers began volunteering as a weekend relief driver for the fire department in Munsy, Kansas, in 1957. Since that time he has accumulated nearly 55 years as a volunteer fireman, and currently is the Warsaw Fire Protection District’s engineer who drives, and operates the pump. He is 86 years old and hopes to serve at least another five years in his volunteer position.
“He is our go-to-man,” said Warsaw Fire Department’s Assistant Chief. “He trains a lot of our guys, including me, and tells a lot of stories and jokes.”
Summers had a regular job driving a truck for 33 years, and flagged race cars for 21 years in Topeka and Kansas City, Kansas, as well as in Odessa, Missouri. He said he was usually home every night, but gone on weekends.
Summers volunteered with the fire department in Munsy, Kansas for 15 years until the city took over the department.  He had a cabin in Edwards, Missouri, so he also spent about 12 years helping out at the Deer Creek Fire Protection District. He retired from truck driving in 1989 after moving to Turner, Kansas, and moved to Warsaw in 1990, joining the fire department there in August of the same year.
“I remember some traumatic fires and wrecks where people were killed,” recalled Summers. “But there were times when I was happy because we were able to save lives. I remember a car accident nearby several years ago where it took us an hour to cut a young lady out of her car. Her children were in the back seat and were okay, but we didn’t know if she would make it. Fortunately, she is walking and doing fine today.”
He said that the fire department was also able to save Cedar Grove Baptist Church when a fire broke out there.  Summers was working the phones at the fire station at the time, and when the call came in he drove to the church and took water to the firefighters. He says that the department manages to have a helicopter standing by during some calls in case victims need to be airlifted for medical treatment.
“There have been plenty of calls in the past, but only three this September,” said Summers. “Of course, we are also busy with training, especially the new guys. One of the things I teach is how to use the pumper.”
Summers said that in his 55 years with fire departments, he has never had one of his firemen killed on duty. Summers also said that he had not been hurt badly during his fire fighting career.
“When we get a call, I pray, saying ‘Lord, you have to be with us!’”
Summers has been married for 66 years to his wonderful wife, Jo Ann, and they raised five children and three grandchildren.  He has a nephew in Arkansas who has been a volunteer fireman for 15 years and Summers concedes that he might have inspired his younger relative to follow in his footsteps.