How Kansas City can improve its fire department

Kansas City has an important opportunity to re-think and re-make its fire service in the coming weeks.

City Hall should seize it.

Current Fire Chief Paul Berardi is retiring in November after 32 years with the Kansas City Fire Department. By all accounts, Berardi has served his community with courage and hard work.

“Our department is strong,” Berardi said when announcing his decision to retire. “When called upon, it has never faltered and never will.”

This is undoubtedly true. Yet it’s also true that every public institution can be better, and the city’s fire service is no exception.

City Manager Troy Schulte will pick a new chief. We encourage him to look outside the department for fresh leadership, but even if he picks an internal candidate, he should focus on these goals:

▪  Better personnel management. The fire service is changing in Kansas City, thanks to safer construction and better building codes. The fire service is becoming an emergency service, with some members responsible for medical response.

That may be difficult for older members to accept. But it also leads to distortions in scheduling and overtime costs, which they new chief must address.

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