Cash crunch hits Wichita Fire Department

Posted: Updated:
WICHITA, Kan. (KAKE) -

Millions of dollars in federal grant money for the Wichita Fire Department will be cut off at the end of the year. The cash crunch means ten Wichita firefighter positions will be eliminated. The 2019 approved city budget confirmed the cuts.  

"We don't understand why we are having to make cuts now," said Matt Schulte the president of Local 135.

The Wichita Fire Department got federal grant money in 2013 and 2015. It added up to more than 1.6 million dollars. The city has burned through that money by spending it on hiring new recruits.

"There is a finite amount of money, personnel, materials, stations, and land," said deputy fire chief Stuart Bevis.

The domino effect?

At the start of the new year ten firefighters will be taken out of station 6 which covers the northeast corner of Wichita. Without a crew engine 6 won't run and will be parked as a reserve.

Why do the cuts have to hit this specific area?

Bevis told KAKE-TV over the phone it comes down to a low call volume.

On the other side the local fire union looks at the lack of manpower and worry about response time to northeast Wichita. 

"We are behind the eight ball if we can't get there in time,” said Schulte.

The budget cuts come with more questions than answers. Those that spoke with KAKE-TV see it as the balance between public safety and priority spending.

"Our biggest citizen safety and firefighter safety...but we got to figure out some way to help fund the fire department," added Schulte.

Recently there was public discussion of a quarter cent sales tax to create a revenue stream for city fire and police.

Could that be something we vote on in November?

Schulte said right now it's just an idea and the tax talks are in the very early stages.

Check out these photos from across KAKEland snapped by our viewers, staff and local officials. Do you have pictures to share with us? Email them to news@kake.com.

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