KANSAS CITY, Mo. - The man heralded by many for making Kansas City one of the most fire safe communities in the country announced his retirement Wednesday.
Kansas City Missouri Fire Chief Richard "Smokey" Dyer said he will step down after 46 years in the firefighting business.
His last day will be July 30.
The city said it will conduct a national search for his replacement.
While Dyer brought enormous change to the fire department that ultimately improved public safety, some of his critics say it is time for different leadership.
Dyer ran the KCMO fire department for 12 years. Among his many accomplishments: An international firefighting association made him a two-time Fire Chief of the Year.
Dyer championed a fire sales tax that led to infrastructure upgrades and improved the union's relationship with the city. He said that improved relationship helped increase public safety.
Under his leadership, Dyer said firefighters lowered fire fatalities, learned how to control large fires faster, ensured every apartment complex had sprinklers and increased the firefighting force.
Earlier this year, he helped engineer his own retirement. He is one of 30 veterans who will voluntarily leave by the end of July, sparing 105 mandatory layoffs.
"This is by far a better alternative. Do I think things will be as good as they are today? No," Dyer said.
A total of 1,000 years of experience will retire at the end of July, but Dyer said he believes the younger fire force will learn quickly.
He ran one of the most high-performing departments in the country, but critics have argued his push for tax and staff increases made him clash with his boss, the city manager, who is running a city in financial distress.
The city has needed to make major budget cuts in recent years.
Dyer's department also took over the MAST ambulance service.
Some council members and ambulance employees have complained response times have lagged since the merger.
"I feel I didn't do a good enough convincing the media, 100 percent of the media, and some city officials our...emergency services is one of the best in the country," Dyer said.
He pointed out that in a recent KCMO city survey, residents said they are satisfied with the department's emergency services -- and that the medical system is, too.
An interim fire chief is expected to be announced soon.
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