The theft of copper transmission lines resulted in a longer-than-expected response time from the Kansas City Fire Department in a Saturday-morning vehicle fire that resulted in the death of one individual and the hospitalization of two others.
According to a statement issued Sunday by battalion chief James Garrett, department officials were unable to establish contact with Fire Station No. 23 at Independence Avenue and Van Brunt in the minutes following a car crash that occurred around 3 a.m. Saturday near the intersection of Scarritt and North Hardesty avenues in Northeast Kansas City.
As a result of the communication problems, fire suppression units arrived at the scene roughly five minutes later than expected, Garrett said.
Kansas City police contacted KCPD Communications at 3:07 Saturday morning, alerting them to a vechicle accident. KCPD Communications immediately attempted to alert station No. 23 to the incident. Having not received a response by 3:11, however, a backup alert system to Fire Station No. 23 was set off, and contact via cell phone was made at about the same time. Personnnel from station No. 23 arrived at the scene five minutes later, at 3:16 a.m.
“On arrival, firefighters noticed KCPD had been using fire extinguishers, they had removed one victim from the passenger side, and firefighters immediately extricated a trapped victim from the rear window of the vehicle and simultaneously began suppressing the fire,” Garrett said.
A Kansas City police spokeswoman said Sunday that one person died at the scene and two others had been taken to the hosptial — one with critical but non-life threatening injuries and the other with non-life threatening injuries.
On Saturday, Garrett said, a test of the communication systems was conducted at all local fire stations and it was concluded that the problem was limited to station No. 23.
“We’re continuing to gather information about the copper theft in the area which interrupted the chain of communications and prevented response personnel from receiving the initial alarm until the backup procedures were initiated,” Garrett said.
As Garrett offered condolences to the victims Sunday, Kansas City police continued to investigate the details surrounding the crash.