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KCK firefighters union picket City Hall following station closure

Posted at 6:28 PM, Nov 06, 2020
and last updated 2020-11-06 20:32:59-05

KANSAS CITY, Kan. — The Kansas City, Kansas firefighters union protested outside of the KCK City Hall Friday, after saying they've brought up multiple issues to their management and the Unified Government with no response.

The International Association of Fire Fighters Home Local 64 chapter were joined by the United Auto Workers Local 31 chapter at the protest.

The two groups are protesting the closure of Station 15 in the Fairfax district which closed in the summer.

The groups said the closure has lead to longer response times when there's a fire or emergency.

"These are serious firefighter health and safety issues, public safety issues so we're out here to bring awareness to it and hopefully get some resolve to some of these situations," JJ Simma said, president of the Local 64 firefighters union.

The Unified Government Board of Commissioners voted to shut down Station 15 in the summer, and in July that company was moved to the new fire station in Piper.

This leaves the industrial Fairfax district with no fire station. The next closest station is the one located at 910 Quindaro Blvd in Kansas City, Kansas.

"Fairfax is a large, industrial area," Simma said. "10,000 to 15,000 people go to work down there every day. It's a highly volatile area due to the type of industry there."

Simma said their emergency response time is supposed to hit four minutes but he can think of several times when a response time was over the four-minute mark.

Clarence Brown is the president of the UAW Local 31. He says the station closure has impacted his members too.

"They say hey, it's dollars and sense and logically this and logically that, but can you put a dollar amount on a life even if you only saved one life? I don't understand that," Brown said.

The Unified Government issued a statement in response to the protest Friday.

It read in part, "In July of 2020, the Unified Government Commission voted to relocate a fire company from Fairfax to the new station in Piper, which now serves over 2,000 new rooftops. The Commission committed to monitoring the response time data to determine whether additional service territory adjustments would be needed."

Simma said opening the new station in Piper was needed, but now they're facing a ladder shortage in the western part of the county.

He said having to wait for ladders from other crews further away should a fire break out is dangerous.

The Unified Government said they were unaware of equipment shortages.

"We've been trying to address them the best we could and not getting any results," Simma said. "So we felt like the public has the right, they deserve to know what's going on."

The fire department did not immediately respond to a request for comment.