WICHITA, Kansas — In the wake of multiple fires Monday across Wichita, KSN learned that in one case, a battalion chief said he wished the department had more firefighters to call out for assistance.
KSN met with representatives with the Wichita Fire Department Tuesday to learn more about the fire chief’s concerns.
We learned the Wichita Fire Dept. is working with city councilors to make certain staffing on the ground does not fall short.
“It’s better to have more there, than less, but we also keep an eye on that as a department, and I know that, at the time,” Captain Stuart Bevis said, “the administration was looking, ‘Do we have enough to cover?'”
Capt. Bevis, with the Wichita Fire Department, referred to Monday morning fires. The first was a bar fire called in around 11:30 a.m. at the intersection of Dayton and Seneca in South Wichita.
Thirty WFD trucks were dispatched to the scene of the bar fire. Soon after, a second fire broke out; a building fire.
Eight trucks from the bar fire were dispatched to the building fire located on S. Lulu, where 15 total units responded.
It is a daily struggle for any public safety department and the city responsible for funding it: keeping enough boots on the ground.
Wichita City Council spoke with KSN concerning the matter, and said that public safety, including the fire department, is a top priority.
“It’s always been the council’s focus to put as many firefighters on the street as possible,” said Councilman James Clendenin, a council member for District III.
For WFD, last year brought position changes that resulted in six vacant firefighter positions. However, thanks to the Staffing Apparatus For Emergency Response grant, or SAFER grant, six new firefighters are already in training to fill those holes.
“With the SAFER grant, some personnel are coming back and some of those movements are going to be altered,” said Capt. Bevis.
The federal grant is part of Wichita’s 2015 – 2016 proposed budget, which has not yet been passed.
Regardless of that, Councilman Clendenin says it’s a priority.
“The SAFER grant and those positions are reflected in the budget, and so those positions are safe,” said Clendenin. “There would be a lot of work thrown down the drain if we just allowed it to leave the budget. It’s there.”
The public will get two chances to hear and comment on the proposed budget before it passes. Then, City Council must vote on the budget.
The first public hearing will be held Tuesday, August 5.
The second public hearing will take place on Tuesday, August 12. Following the second public hearing, city councilors will vote on the budget.