Kansas City Fire Chief Paul Berardi is retiring after serving 32 years with the department. His last day on the job will be Nov. 11.
Berardi succeeded former Chief Smokey Dyer in January 2013 after serving as interim chief.
“We have met many challenges these past five years and it has been a great honor to be called ‘Chief,’ ” Berardi said in his resignation letter to city officials. “I have had the honor of working alongside some of the best fire and EMS service professionals anywhere and sincerely appreciate your commitment to the labor and management partnership that has done much to fuel our improvement. Organizationally our department is strong and, when called upon, it has never faltered and never will.”
Berardi said he is most proud of an apprenticeship program for high school students, decentralized and electronic in-service training and regionalized dispatching.
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City Manager Troy Schulte praised Berardi for his dedication and commitment.
“I don’t necessarily look forward to trying to fill his shoes,” Schulte said, “but I believe the groundwork he’s laid for the next chief is solid and I thank him for that.”
In the wake of a natural gas explosion in February 2013 that killed one person and destroyed JJ’s restaurant just west of the Country Club Plaza, Berardi announced new protocols. The initial dispatch on any call about a gas leak now includes a battalion chief and a fire truck equipped to monitor gas levels in the air.
In 2014 Kansas City voters approved a 20-year extension of a quarter-cent sales tax to support the fire department.
In October 2015 firefighters Larry Leggio and John Mesh were killed in a building collapse as they fought a fire on Independence Boulevard. They had been in an area that had been ordered cleared because of the danger of collapse. The Fire Department’s internal review and a federal report cited missteps by fire commanders. The department now has a formal collapse zone policy and has worked to address other concerns.