Monday, January 4, 2016
Journal Star Reports On Loss Of County Emergency Coordinator Fictum
The Lincoln Journal Star reports on the recent decision by the Saline County Board to terminate the
appointment of longtime Emergency Management Coordinator B.J. Fictum.
For our readers who have worked with B.J., including our volunteer firefighters and rescue personnel, here are excerpts from the Journal Star's story.
For nearly 25 years, Saline County paid B.J. Fictum to be the calm in its storms.
The emergency manager ordered the evacuation of DeWitt in May as floodwater threatened to swallow the town. He coordinated the recovery of Wilber and Clatonia in 2004 after the Hallam tornado damaged dozens of homes.
He was there when 4,000 gallons of anhydrous ammonia were released near Swanton, and when Turkey Creek spilled over its banks, and whenever potent clouds gathered over Southeast Nebraska.
“But that came to a screeching halt Tuesday when the Saline County Board of Commissioners decided not to reappoint me,” he wrote last week on his Facebook page from his room at Madonna Rehabilitation Hospital in Lincoln, where he’s recovering from an illness.
The 51-year-old has been hospitalized since early December -- first at Bryan East Campus and then at Madonna -- with cellulitis and a blood infection. He learned he was out of a job when the board chairwoman called him after the vote, he said.
“It was quite a shock. The only thing that does upset me is they tried to do this while I was in the hospital.”
He had expected the board’s reappointment vote in January and was planning to attend. He wouldn’t elaborate, but said there were “hints here and there” the action was looming.
Fictum joined the county in 1992, when the office was known as civil defense.
“The director needed a little help and I volunteered to help him. And boy, it’s been an interesting 23 years.”
That first year, a tornado hit the center of the county, near Dorchester. The next year, the DeWitt area was the target of a so-called flornado, he said -- a tornado followed by a flood.
He’s watched as natural disasters have caused up to $10 million in damage in Saline County.
But they haven’t killed anybody. And Fictum credits his office’s ability to alert residents of threatening weather -- through the use of storm-spotters -- and its efforts to teach them how to handle it.
He’s proud of Saline County’s annual Severe Weather Seminar, which drew about 20 people when it started in 1993 but can now attract more than 300 from around the region.
“We’ve probably educated a couple of thousand people in that time,” he said.
Fictum wasn’t sure what he’ll do next, after he’s released from Madonna on Thursday. He intends to keep covering high school sports for the Crete News, and he’s considering starting a group called Saline Weather Services.
But he’ll continue to watch the weather, he said, and email warnings to those who want them.