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Morning Sun
  • PATRICK'S PEOPLE: Pittsburg fire captain Bob Gardullo works to prevent fires

  • In his duties as a Pittsburg firefighter, Bob Gardullo does everything in his power to save homes and lives when a blaze occurs. However, what really makes him happy is helping prevent fires in the first place.

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  • In his duties as a Pittsburg firefighter, Bob Gardullo does everything in his power to save homes and lives when a blaze occurs. However, what really makes him happy is helping prevent fires in the first place.
    Gardullo, who was promoted last December to the rank of captain in the Pittsburg Fire Department, really enjoys visiting schools with his fellow firefighters during October, which is Fire Prevention Month. He’ll be especially busy during the coming week, which is Fire Prevention Week, held each year during the week from Sunday to Saturday in which Oct. 9 falls.
    Gardullo said that the occasion commemorates two horrific fires that occurred on the same day, Oct. 8, 1871.
    The Great Chicago Fire, which burned from Oct. 8 to early Oct. 10, killed hundreds and destroyed about 3.3 square miles in Chicago, and the Peshtigo Fire in Peshtigo, Wis. Though it is nearly forgotten today, the Peshtigo Fire  was a firestorm which wiped out 12 communities. No accurate death toll has ever been determined, but it’s thought to be between 1,200 and 2,500 people. However, it is certain that it caused the most deaths by fire in U.S. history.
    “We’ll be doing fire drills this coming weeks, and will time how long it takes the school buildings to empty out,” Gardullo said. “We’ll also take principals or teachers 100 feet in the air in the ladder truck. The kids always love that.”
    He said that the previous truck only reached 85 feet up.
    “The Besse is the tallest building in town, and the old truck was just a little short,” Gardullo said. “Now we have the apparatus to reach everybody in town.”
    All in all, he said, he and fellow firefighters will reach out to more than 2,000 children in pre-school through fifth grade with their fire prevention programs.
    “Our theme this year is ‘Two Ways Out’,” Gardullo said. “If you get trapped and can’t get out the door, think of the window.”
    His work with youngsters also includes serving in the Junior Firesetters Program, an intervention program for those who might have an unhealthy interest in fire.
    “Kids get referred to us by teachers or other adults who might be concerned about them,” Gardullo said.
    A New Jersey native, he said that he has always been interested in firefighting.
    “I was a volunteer firefighter back east in upstate New York,” Gardullo said. “I worked in the Catskill Mountains, a wooded resort area. My wife, Susan, is from Parsons, and I met her when she was finishing up her nursing degree in the east.”
    The couple, parents of three daughters, moved back to this area 22 years ago and he began trying to get a job as a firefighter.
    “I’ve been here 17 years,” he said.
    Page 2 of 2 - Gardullo is a proud member of the Southeast Kansas Firefighters Honor Guard.
    “We do funerals and parades,” he said.
    The unit will also be at the 25th annual Fallen Firefighters Memorial Service, scheduled at 3 p.m. Oct. 14 at Frank Jameson Field, Girard High School.
    “There were 80 firefighters who lost their lives in the line of duty in 2011,” Gardullo said.
    This is painful, he said, because firefighters are a brotherhood.
    “9/11 hit me hard because I was from back east, and my mother had worked right across the street from where that happened in the World Trade Center district,” Gardullo said. “But she’s retired to Florida, so she wasn’t there.”
    He enjoys it when youngsters see him out in the community and recognize him, but denies that he’s any kind of hero.
    “People call us heroes, but ask any of us and we’ll tell you that this is a job we love to do,” Gardullo said. “This is about helping people, bottom line. The people fighting for our country are the real heroes.”
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