KCFD experiencing COVID-19 related shortages, uptick in overtime costs

Kansas City Fire Department
Posted at 6:22 AM, Jan 11, 2022
and last updated 2022-01-11 07:22:58-05

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Rapid COVID-19 spread is causing problems within the Kansas City, Missouri, Fire Department.

Last week, more than 10% of field personnel were out due to COVID-19, causing a shortage in the department.

“When we get a few people back we have a quite few go off so it’s just a moving target,” said KCFD Assistant Fire Chief Jimmy Walker.

Walker said the shortage is driving up the department’s overtime costs because firefighters who are not being affected by COVID-19 are having to fill in vacancies and work longer shifts.

“We’ve got overtime nonstop, and we really are just trying to make sure that all of our people have what they need to be able to make it through,” Walker said.

According to KCFD, services aren’t being disrupted by the shortage.

Departments across the country, in particular the West Coast, are dealing with a similar problem.

Some departments, including the San Diego Fire Department, have activated “emergency brown-out” plans where they shut down companies for a limited amount of time.

Walker said his department is nowhere near dealing with a similar scenario.

“What we are doing is working so we are planning on continuing the course that we are on, and I believe with the vaccination rate that we have, we aren't going to reach that critical point,” Walker said.

More than 80% of KCFD staff are vaccinated, and at this time, no vaccine requirements have been implemented by the department. Mask use is also being encouraged to combat the issue.

“We have no serious injury and serious illnesses, there is no one hospitalized and the people that are vaccinated are coming to work quickly,” Walker said.

The department is planning on hosting a vaccine clinic in conjunction with the Jackson County Health Department starting Jan. 12.

The clinic is open to the public and will go on for the next six weeks, every Wednesday and Thursday from 8 a.m. until noon.

KCFD is encouraging staff to take advantage of the clinic and get their booster shot.

“We are planning a booster clinic, for those who haven’t been boosted yet and also those who haven't and wish to become vaccinated,” Walker said. “Besides the normal clinic that we’re going to have outside, we are going to do one internally to encourage the booster shot.”

KSHB 41 News reached out to other departments in the metro including the Kansas City, Kansas; Lee Summit and Overland Park Fire Departments. All said they are also experiencing COVID-19 related shortages and overtime costs are slightly or significantly up, but services aren't being affected.