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Some worry Wood Heights Fire Protection District in trouble after police department disbanded

Posted at 4:47 PM, May 21, 2018
and last updated 2018-05-21 17:47:48-04

WOOD HEIGHTS, Mo. -- Many Wood Heights residents are up in arms. It's been three days since the city disbanded their police department. Now, some feel the city is retaliating against the Wood Heights Fire Protection District for showing their support. 

"When we don't work together, the citizens are what hurts," said Darren Hart, Wood Heights Resident. 

One week ago, Hart was making signs to save the Wood Heights Police Department. Soon, he fears he could be making them for the fire protection district. 

"It appears that they're trying to attack our local fire department now," said Hart. 

On May 11, Chief Lee O'Dell received a letter from Mayor Robert Pettegrew stating the district could no longer use the city's fire hydrants for anything other than an emergency. 

"I was just blown away that the city would tell us that we can't use fire hydrants," said O'Dell. 

For years, O'Dell said the fire protection district has trained and done annual testings of the city's hydrants. On May 3, O'Dell notified the city of their upcoming testings to stay compliant with ISO ratings. O'Dell said the district has been working hard on lowering the ratings for years. In 2012, O'Dell said the ISO rating went from a 9/10 to a 4/6 rating, 1 being the best. 

"We had told them a week prior that we were going to be doing testing of the hydrants annually like normal, and they sent us an email back that due to legal issues, they couldn't allow us to use the fire hydrants," said O'Dell. 

Some resident like Hart are concerned their homeowner's insurance rates will now spike. 

"If for some reason it shows a fault now — yeah, it could affect our insurance premiums and we definitely as citizens don't want that," said Hart. 

Chief O'Dell said the city emailed him back just two days after the fire protection district held a meeting in support of the Wood Heights Police Department. 

"As far as the in-depth of this, of getting rid of a police department and then coming after the fire department as a whole, I've never seen a city do this," said O'Dell. 

41 Action News spoke with Pettegrew over the phone. He said the city will conduct maintenance of city hydrants on their own. In an emergency situation within city limits, the Mayor said the fire district may use the hydrants. 

The fire district has invited the city to their board meeting in June. In return, the city has invited the fire district to the June City Council meeting. 

"If we have a problem then let's work it out because the utmost goal is protection of our citizens," said Hart. 

When asked about the claims of retaliation against the fire protection district, the Mayor said that is not the case. He referred 41 Action News to a letter sent to residents that outlined the city's financial liability of allowing the fire protection district to use city hydrants. 



On the Wood Heights city website, the city also posted an email from 2015 in response to the fire hydrant issues. 




O'Dell said the fire protection district does not do inspections of hydrants, only testing of flow.

Residents like Hart plan to address the disbandment of the Wood Heights Police Department at the City Council meeting Monday night at 7 p.m. at City Hall. In June, they plan to tackle issues with the fire protection district.