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Kansas City is the largest city in Missouri and is in the northwest corner of the state at the confluence of the Missouri and Kansas rivers. The city encompasses 319 square miles with parts in four counties. Population estimates show 447,306 within the city and over 2 million in the Kansas City, MO/Kansas City, KS, metropolitan area.
Kansas City, MO's early fire department was organized in the 1850s with the formation of volunteer bucket brigades. Church bells would signal a fire alarm and everyone would assemble at the scene of the fire to help. In 1867, the city abandoned the volunteer bucket-brigade system and replaced it with a fully paid fire department. Initial firefighting equipment included a Silsby rotary engine with hose and two hose wagons. Colonel Frank Foster was elected the first paid fire chief. Late in 1869, the first ladder company was organized, and named McGee Hook and Ladder 1, in honor of ex-mayor E. Milton McGee. By 1872, the department consisted of three steamers, one hook-and-ladder, one chemical engine and 36 paid firefighters. By the 1920s, the fire department had grown to 30 stations, with 40 companies. In 1928, the first training school was opened and the department was fully motorized.
Today, the Kansas City, MO, Fire Department operates from 34 fire stations with 1,000 uniformed personnel under the leadership of Chief Richard "Smokey" Dyer. The department refers to its apparatus with a pump as a "pumper." There are 34 pumpers, 13 trucks, three rescue units, one hazmat rig and two foam pumpers. The city is divided into seven battalions and each battalion chief is assigned a driver. Each battalion driver is a captain and functions as the safety officer on incident scenes. EMS transport is provided by a separate city agency that is not affiliated with the fire department. Firefighters trained to the basic EMT level respond as first responders to medical calls. Fire protection for Kansas City International Airport is provided by the department from Station 5, located at the airport. The Airport Division operates four front-line apparatus with a staff of 26 personnel, including an administrative battalion chief, a division training officer and 24 uniformed personnel working on three 24-hour shifts. Firefighters in Kansas City are on duty for 24 hours, off for 48 hours and get an extra day off following each nine on-duty shifts. The department responds to over 55,000 alarms each year with about 75% of those being emergency medical calls.
The department's Hazardous Materials Team was placed in service in 1989, following an explosion at a construction site in 1988 that killed six Kansas City firefighters. Pumper Companies 30 and 41 and their personnel were lost in the explosion. The numbers 30 and 41 were added together to form the number for Hazmat 71, which originally was located at Station 47.
The first hazmat vehicles included a 1989 E-ONE pumper (P71), a 1980s-model Dr. Pepper roll-up delivery truck donated to the fire department (S71) and a pickup truck (U71). The beverage truck was replaced by a 1993 Super-Vac hazmat response vehicle, the first hazmat vehicle built by Super-Vac. In 2007, a motor vehicle accident put the Super-Vac out of service and a reserve rescue unit was used until the new HM71 arrived.
Initially, the hazmat team was not dedicated; personnel from Station 47 manned the hazmat vehicles when a hazmat call came in. Currently, HM71 has four dedicated personnel assigned to it each shift. An additional four technicians are assigned to Pumper 71. Foam 71 and Utility 71 are not manned unless called. When that happens, HM 71 and Pumper 71 crew members place them in service. All rescue companies in the city are trained to the hazmat operations level. All other firefighters are trained to the awareness level.