Fire department accreditation
The firefighters passed with flying colors. Their fire trucks did not.
Lawrence-Douglas County Fire & Medical department became one of just three departments in the state and 123 in the world to receive a prestigious international accreditation from the Commission on Fire Accreditation International, the city announced Monday.
Fire Chief Mark Bradford said the accreditation took nearly 2 1/2 years to complete and delved into every corner of the department.
"I think what this should ensure the community is that a true top-to-bottom review of the department has been done to ensure we're operating efficiently and (show) what areas we can improve in," Bradford said.
The outside review also backed up a key point that Bradford has been promoting to city leaders: The department needs new fire trucks.
"The reviewers agreed that they're antiquated," Bradford said of an on-site inspection of Lawrence's firefighting equipment. "They said we've definitely gotten the life out of those apparatuses. They said they've seen individual vehicles in this condition, but not really an entire fleet in this condition."
Most of the city's large pieces of firefighting equipment - quints and ladder trucks - are about 20 years old, except for a new quint purchased in 2006 and a new engine purchased in 2001.
This year's city budget has approximately $2.3 million in it to purchase two new quint fire trucks - a fire engine with a short ladder on it - and a new technical rescue vehicle.
But the vehicles have not yet been purchased. Bradford said he was waiting for city commissioners to reconfirm the spending plans, given the tight city budget and slumping economy.
"Part of me says this is a no-brainer and they will want to move right ahead on it, but another part of me says that with the economy the way it is, they may want to slow down," Bradford said.
City Commissioner Mike Amyx - who has frequently urged staff to keep a close eye on expenses - said he's still leaning toward moving forward with the purchases.
"Those purchases are still a high priority in my mind because they involve core city services, life and safety issues," Amyx said. "I don't have any plans to move them back, but I do think the commission will end up looking at this whole budget process."
Bradford said the city's current fleet of firefighting equipment is frequently in the shop receiving maintenance work.
"I can tell you it is pretty much a full-time job to keep them on the road," Bradford said.
The review process also found that the city should begin planning to replace its burn tower, a training facility at 19th Street and Haskell Avenue. The approximately 30-year-old facility is lacking in current technology. Bradford said cost estimates haven't been developed, but he said a new facility could cost about $700,000.
Bradford said the review process highlighted the department's strengths as being its organization, its "good culture," its planning and its efforts in building new facilities to keep up with a growing community.
"We feel like the accreditation is something to be extremely proud of," Bradford said.
Sedgwick County and the city of Lenexa have the other two departments in the state that have received the accreditation.