City Of Wichita Battle Against Their Own Fire Department On Facebook

The City of Wichita have taken a battle with their fire department over budget issues to social media

  • The Wichita Fire Department has at least four units offline due to budget issues

  • Things got tense after a WFD unit was pulled from a church fire in Andale

  • On Monday the City of Wichita Facebook page placed blame on 10 firefighters who took unscheduled leaves

The City of Wichita has been in a fight with their fire department over funding issues for some time now. In an immature response from city leaders, the battle between the two has appeared to move to social media.

Things began heating up on June 16 when the Facebook page Wichita Firefighters made a post informing the public that due to “self-imposed budget cuts” five units were offline. The post asked residents to contact Wichita Mayor Jeff Longwell and councilmembers.

June 16th 2018: Due to Wichita Fire Department self imposed budget cuts there are 5 fire department units out of service today. Why are we risking the safety of our community? Please contact Mayor Longwell and your councilmember today.

On June 18, the page made an almost identical post claiming four units were offline due to the budget cuts. The post still urged citizens to contact Longwell and councilmembers.

June 18th 2018: Due to Wichita Fire Department self imposed budget cuts there are 4 firedepartment units out of service today. Why are we risking the safety of our community? Please contact Mayor Longwell and your council member today.

On June 24, a dangerous fire broke out at St. Joseph Church in Andale, Kansas. Being the largest fire department in the State of Kansas, the WFD responded to the call. While fighting the fire an apparent miscommunication occurred and the WFD unit was told to leave the scene.

On June 25, the International Association of Fire Fighters released the following statement regarding the Andale fire and other concerns.

Citizens of Wichita, On June 16th the Wichita Fire Department has instituted a policy that has reduced the response units available to serve the Citizens of Wichita and the surrounding communities. Several stations have been impacted by taking a unit out of service. This effects our ability to respond in a timely manner to emergency calls.

In 2011, The Wichita Firefighters and City Leaders agreed to a minimum number of personnel to ensure Citizen safety and Firefighter safety. We agreed in our contract with the City, that in order to operate safely and efficiently we need 117 personnel on duty every day. The Elected Officials, City Manager, and Fire Administration have now determined we can now go as low as 91 personnel on duty. This puts Citizen safety as well as the firefighters at risk. You do less with less, not more with less.

Yesterday morning (June 24th) our Fire Administration ordered City crews working at the Church fire in Andale to abandon the ongoing fire attack operations and return to the City. Wichita is the largest fire department in the state. We left the Sedgwick County Fire Department and several smaller departments without the reach of our 100-foot truck company (aerial platform). It is unknown how much additional damage this caused to the Church. This unit was eventually replaced by a 100-foot truck from Newton Kansas, over 35 miles away.

Please help us by contacting Mayor Longwell and the members of the City Council and ask them to stop taking fire units out of service, and properly staff the Fire Department in a manner to keep the Citizens safe. It is time to stop gambling with the safety of our citizens.

Sincerely,
Matt Schulte
President
IAFF Local 135

During the fire, two firefighters were injured and treated at a local hospital with burns and smoke inhalation. Both firefighters were released shortly later. The Sedgwick County Fire Department estimated $1 million in damages.

Wichita Fire Department Chief, Tammy Snow told KAKE she was disappointed in the decision made by the battalion chief to leave the active fire. Snow admitted the fire department’s own policies were not followed.

Our policy is to obtain permission from our deputy chief or above and that didn’t occur. We didn’t follow our own policy. There was an error in judgment and we had our units respond back.

On Monday, the Wichita Firefighters made another post claiming four units paid for with tax dollars were sitting in their fire stations and not being utilized due to the budget cuts.

June 25, 2018: again 4 fire units are sitting in their fire stations being paid for by your tax dollars, and not being utilized for your protection and service. As a citizen you should get what you pay for!! Contact Mayor Longwell and your council member today.

Like a teenager fighting with their bff, the City of Wichita’s Facebook page decided they would lash out against Union President Matt Schulte and shift the blame on firefighters who took unscheduled leaves in the comments.

What Union President Matt Schulte is not mentioning is that the WFD was down 10 firefighters who took unscheduled leave, forcing some units to come out of service. Despite this, our department continues to meet our response time goals by allocating resources where needed. Our hope is to work with Mr. Schulte to ensure that we reduce unscheduled leave as much as possible.

A response to the City of Wichita’s comment asked if the unscheduled leaves could be related to sick days. Surprisingly, the City of Wichita responded by saying the leaves were “unscheduled” which typically means “sick leave.”

The City of Wichita decided to double-down by claiming they see a spike of unscheduled leaves on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays and that the 10 unscheduled leaves were going to be investigated to ensure they were for valid reasons. Apparently whoever runs the City of Wichita’s Facebook page forgot that it was Monday.

This leave is unscheduled, which typically means sick leave. We see these numbers spike on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays and leadership is investigating the cause to ensure it is for valid reasons. As unscheduled leave rises, so does the rate of overtime that the City pays to ensure adequate staffing levels are met.

The City of Wichita did not leave it at a few derogatory comments and felt it necessary to make a post again blaming the firefighters who took unscheduled leaves for four units being taken offline, despite these units being offline for at least ten days before the post due to budget cuts. The post attempted to shift the blame when it stated the city is working with the union to cut back on unscheduled leaves, instead of budget issues.

Today, four Wichita Fire Department units were taken offline due to 10 firefighters who took unscheduled leave. Despite this, our department continues to meet our response time goals by allocating resources where needed. The City is working with Union leadership to ensure that we reduce unscheduled leave as much as possible. Our shared goal is always the safety of our community. #ICTFire

As a last attempt to save face, the City of Wichita Facebook page commented an un-audited graph claiming to show their investment level in the WFD. Since the graph is un-audited, technically there is no validity and instead represents a general idea of the city’s investment.

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About Meko Haze

Meko Haze is an independent journalist by day... and an independent journalist by night.

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