KANSAS CITY, Mo — The Kansas City Fire Department is making a considerable effort to end its staffing shortage with its largest cadet class in history.
An average academy class is around 40 to 50 cadets. This week 110 people started their training with the department.
“For the last three years, the field has been go, go, go," said John Baker, KCFD's deputy chief of professional development. "And they have done everything and more that we’ve asked of them. This will be a nice chance for them to get back to a normal routine.”
Through the pandemic, first responders pulled doubles, working countless hours of overtime.
KCFD said accepting the largest class in department history will provide relief in just a few months.
“I said 'Hey, I’m coming with a big ask. How do you feel about 100 people? They were like, 'Woah, that’s a lot, that’s never been done,” said Ross Grundyson, interim chief for KCFD. “Their first response was we’ll figure out a way to get it done Chief.”
In December of 2022, KCFD told KSHB 41 it needed to fill 120 positions. After the current class graduates, those vacancies will be almost completely staffed.
“I think they are going to be excited when they come out, so they don’t have to go work overtime," said Travis Paul, KCFD's training academy battalion chief. "They can if they want to."
Getting 110 people through all the necessary training will take time and commitment from leaders at the academy.
Paul said many instructors are working 15-hour days to make it happen.
“I don’t want to call it overwhelming, but it is. But it’s been really great,” Paul said. "It is going to be a great, but challenging experience.”
The recruits KSHB 41 spoke with said they are eager to get out into the field.
“I just look up sometimes and I’m living what I dreamed of doing,” said cadet Jeffrey Byrd. “Just going to go all out, give it everything I got.”
Byrd’s father is also a firefighter. He said they talk often about his time in the academy.
“He calls me every night and asks me how it went,” Byrd said. “So he’s happy for me.”
Cadets are expected to finish the academy in six months.