The ties that bind the firefighters in the Kansas City Metro were evident Thursday morning as the funeral procession for fallen Shawnee firefighter John Glaser took to the streets.
The stalls of Fire Station 71, where Glaser was stationed, were empty at 9:30 a.m. Outside the station, visiting firefighters lined the east side of Quivira Road in salute to the passing procession.
Overland Park Fire Department Battalion Chief Julie Harper temporarily took over the reins of Fire Station 71 on Thursday.
"This is just part of the service of brotherhood, filling in so that no Shawnee (trucks) are out today," she said. "We are doing this to allow all the Shawnee Fire Department to hold together and be as one family."
Firefighters from surrounding communities are volunteering their time to staff the three Shawnee fire stations.
"Mutual aid staffing from Overland Park, Olathe and Johnson County Fire District 2 will be responding to all the calls in Shawnee today," Harper said. "Our fire and EMS departments are dispatched through a common dispatch, so we work on the same radio system."
Shawnee Fire Station 71 was staffed with three firefighters and an Overland Park fire engine. Fire Station 72 was staffed with four firefighters from Johnson County Fire District 2 along with a ladder truck. Shawnee Fire Station 73 was staffed with four Olathe firefighters and a ladder truck.
"We know each other well. We operate on similar protocols," Harper said. "Other than seeing a different name on the side of our trucks, the residents of Shawnee should not see any other difference."
The visiting firefighters will spend 24 hours stationed in Shawnee, Harper said.
"It doesn't throw off our schedules at all," she said. "These firefighters are filling with volunteered time. Some are on their first or second day off. All their respective cities are staffed normally. There is no difference in the level of response because of the volunteering. We had to turn some volunteers away."
While Harper could not speak for each department, she said the Overland Park Fire Department would be compensating volunteering officers from their stations.
"Even though some of the firefighters many not have personally known John, he is still a brother and the rest of the Shawnee Fire Department is our brothers or sisters," she said. "This may seem unusual if you don't know the fire department culture, but it's what we do. We wrap our arms around those who need it and still protect."