By Dawn Bormann
A Johnson County firefighter has earned a distinction that highlights his world-class training and fire expertise.
Wagers didn’t exactly have to pass a test or answer a few questions to earn the honor. The bar was much higher.
The designation demands officers have a strong educational background, diverse participation in emergency services at local, state and national levels. It also requires they demonstrate their involvement in the community. It’s awarded after a thorough review by an 11-member commission.
It’s not something a firefighter could earn on a weekend or even a few years of training. To meet the expectations, someone would have to dedicate years, said Jeff Scott, deputy chief for Consolidated Fire District No. 2.
Wagers fit the bill. Over the last few decades, he’s spent every extra minute he could attending classes, seminars and learning more about the profession. He took hazmat training long before it was required for his rank.
“I did that because I knew that someday I would be an officer,” he said. “So I would have the knowledge to take care of my own company.”
At times, Wagers paid for his own training courses to improve his skills. He knew it would benefit his career in the long-term.
It’s also improved the departments where he has worked.
“It’s like anything else, the more we train the better we get and the safer we are,” Scott said.
Wagers, a 34-year firefighter, spent much of his career working in the Topeka area, but he joined the local department four years ago.
“We’re glad to have him,” Scott said.
He wanted to earn the recent honor because it was the highest training designation he can achieve.
“I’ve taken all the classes I can at the fire academy,” he said.
Scott pointed out that Wagers’ training helps push everyone to the next level. It’s especially true since he’s in charge of training.
“It goes to the point that we all have a lot to learn. If you’re not learning you’re not trying,” Scott said. “Chris put himself in a position to get better in his job and to get the documentation behind it to show that he is doing a better job.”
Of course, the designation doesn’t give him many breaks around the station. Wagers responds to fires just like any other firefighter. But it does help him emphasize the importance of training. In Wagers’ administrative role, he’s responsible for ensuring that all local firefighters meet training demands.
The extra effort also makes him an example upon which others should follow.
“For us it’s one of our people that’s done really well and it makes us proud,” Scott said.