December 01st, 2023

county barkley and steckelSeward County Fire Chief Andrew Barkley, right, congratulates Captain Braden Steckel as he awards the Medal of Merit for his help with an incident Sept. 1 at the Red Barn Truck Wash in Liberal. Liberal firefighter Joseph Navarro was also recognized for his help with the situation. L&T photo/Robert PierceROBERT PIERCE • Leader & Times


Friday, Sept. 1, shortly before 9 a.m., first responders from several local agencies responded to the Red Barn Truck Wash on East Pancake Boulevard for an EMS call.

Three victims at that time were located under a tanker unconscious and were later extricated and transported to Southwest Medical Center.

At last Tuesday’s Seward County Commission meeting, two of the first responders were awarded for their help in the incident.

“We come before you tonight to recognize some individuals for some heroic action that took place in Seward County,” Fire Chief Andrew Barkley said. “An Award of Merit is presented to an employee of the Seward County Fire Department who performs an unusual skill, task or act exceptionally well in the course of mitigating an emergency incident.”

After recalling the initial call from the Liberal Seward County Communication Center, Barkley said due to the nature of the incident, firefighters from the county’s fire station in Liberal also responded to aid the Liberal Fire Department with manpower. 

“First arriving fire department Unit Captain Braden Steckel quickly evaluated the scene, doing a self-contained breathing apparatus and air monitor,” Barkley said. “Captain Steckel, with the assistance of sheriff’s deputy David Carrillo entered the tank trailer and located the three victims. Inside, a second rescuer, Liberal firefighter Joseph Navarro, joined Captain Steckel inside the tank trailer.”

Working together, Barkley said Steckel and Navarro prepared and assisted the team outside the tank with the removal of victims from the hazardous environment. 

“One by one, each victim was removed from the tank trailer, and the team outside worked to get each victim down to awaiting EMS personnel for treatment and transport to Southwest Medical Center,” Barkley said. “As with normal operations regarding technical rescues in a hazardous environment such as these, Captain Steckel and firefighter Navarro were taken to Southwest Medical Center for evaluation and observation as a precautionary measure.”

Barkley said in his opinion, the manner in which the rescue took place can only defined as being performed in a manner of excellence.

“Because of the quick actions and operations that took place at this incident, two of the victims survived at home with their families,” he said. “The timeframe of the entire rescue incident from public safety being alerted to completion was less than 17 minutes. This is an absolute testament to the unified professionalism in bravery at its finest with public safety agencies in Seward County. Captain Steckel, firefighter Navarro, tonight, we present to you the Medal of Merit.”

All five commissioners praised the work of all involved in stabilizing the incident.

“I’d like to say thank you very much for your bravery, for your putting your life on the line every day,”‘ Commissioner Presephoni Fuller said. “Thank you Chief Andrew, and thank you all of city fire and county for all you do on a daily basis. It is greatly appreciated, and we’re going to make sure we try to stay out of your way so you can work.”

“It takes a special kind of guy to be selfless and want to be able to go towards danger,” Vice Chair Tammy Sutherland-Abbott said. “I’m glad not just these two who were there specifically, but that we have firefighters and police officers who are willing to do that for the rest of the community that would be totally running the opposite way.”

“I would just like to thank the two officers who were recognized tonight for what they did,” Commissioner C.J. Wettstein said. “I would also like to thank all of our officers we have in all of our departments. I know they all do things everyday that are scary things to do.”

“Thanks is not enough, but thank you for what you all do,” Commissioner Steve Helm said.

“We do thank you from the bottom of our hearts,” Chairman Scott Carr said. “We do appreciate your bravery and your workforce.”