KCK task force to look for fire department fixes

KANSAS CITY, Kan. -- A task force made up of firefighters and city employees is looking at how to most efficiently run the Kansas City, Kansas, fire department.

41 Action News has learned the task force is made up of four fire chiefs and four union firefighters. They are expected to make a recommendation to the Unified Government in December.  They are making recommendations on location and maintenance of fire stations, equipment, staffing and response times.

A ten year future report shows KCK has $500 million in deferred maintenance to its buildings that would come due in 2027. According to the union representing the fire department, some of that maintenance would be due for its buildings.

"If this jewel doesn't make it you don't have any water for a while," said KCK fire captain Robert Wing, who serves as the business manager for local 64.  
 
Wing is talking about a 1975 tanker engine that carries 1,500 gallons of water to places that don't have fire hydrants nearby.  It's anchored at 123rd and Leavenworth and on Monday, was sitting next to a leaking truck that has to be filled with water three times a day.
 
"The only resolve to some of these structures is they need to be bull dozed," said Wing.
 
Since 2013 the city has bought 16 new ambulances, but officials said they were scheduled to do so.  
 
"That equipment is in a time frame and it doesn't always get changed like it should," said commissioner Mike Kane.
 
It plans to purchase 10 new trucks.  Four of them are in use and the rest are being built or need to be paid for and delivered.
 
KCKFD runs about 22 each day and said some extras are needed for repairs.
 
Repairs the city is used to at its current fire houses.
 
For instance, a fire station at 81st and Leavenworth had a retaining wall collapse.  About a year and a half ago, the front part of the station caved in. This is a station that KCKFD inherited from township fire stations.
 
About two years ago crews there woke up to standing water in that station from a sewage leak.  Firefighters operated out of a FEMA truck out front so it could continue making runs.

At 78th and Kansas Avenue, there is a defect in the roof caused by a faulty beam. The issue could cause a roof collapse, according to Wing.

"The fire stations are so old we're going to have to rebuild them," said Mayor Mark Holland.
 
Firefighters are often going to emergencies with three people on their trucks.  The NFPA 1710 standard is at least four.
 
"There should be two firefighters on the outside so if two get in trouble they can rush in," explained Wing.
 
Commissioner Kane does not like the conditions and says something has to change.
 
"This would be a slow process. I agree I wish we had more money, and we don't. But we have to figure out a way to make this work," said Kane.

Part of the city task force’s job will be evaluating the department and seeing what changes can be made for quick fixes, but also what more longterm, permanent steps would need to be taken.

A 2015 report the city authorized showed 15 out of 18 fire stations were not up to code.

Mayor-elect David Alvey has said the deferred building maintenance will be the top priority.

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