February 17, 2011
KAKE News has learned there is an internal investigation at the Wichita Fire Department involving a group of firefighters accused of setting a fire inside their own fire station. We're told the investigation began in early January involving as many as ten Wichita Firefighters out of the city's biggest station; Station #1 in Downtown Wichita. The details are not all coming to light yet, but we're told several employees could face serious consequences.
Two sources have told KAKE News that a group of firefighters devised a plan to time themselves on how fast they could lay a fire hose into the living quarters at Station #1 at Murdock and Main Street. The personnel reportedly intentionally set a small fire in a bathroom. The fire was discovered when a high-ranking officer walked in on them.
The sources spoke to KAKE News on a condition that they not be identified.
At the local firefighters union, President Rocky Bumgarner confirmed the investigation by saying "I cannot discuss individuals in the case, but I can tell you there is an administrative investigation regarding Station #1 personnel that is ongoing at the moment."
At Wichita City Hall, KAKE News has been attempting to discuss the incident with Chief Ron Blackwell for two weeks. He had not commented until today, when he sent us this one sentence email; "It is the city's longstanding policy not to comment on personnel matters."
The small fire was reportedly put out quickly when a high-ranking member of the department discovered what was going on. We're told the firefighters claim they set the fire as part of a training exercise. The city has the state's largest fire training facility at the corner of 31st and Oliver in Wichita. Fires are often set there in a safe environment to train new firefighters and provide ongoing education for the department as a whole.
Today, KAKE News also filed a Kansas Open Records Act Request pertaining to information regarding any documents related to this investigation. We'll keep you updated on any new information we get.