Mike Kane has been talking about a new fire station in the western Kansas City, Kansas, neighborhood of Piper since he was elected to the Board of Commisioners 14 years ago.
But it was his own near-death experience two Halloweens ago that made building the station his mission.
“That lit the fire under me to put the fire under the rest of the community,” Kane said.
On Saturday, the Unified Government of Wyandotte County and Kansas City, Kansas finally broke ground on a $4.3 million fire station at 2913 Hutton Road.
Kansas City, Kansas, Fire Chief Michael Callahan told the crowd of firefighters and residents at the construction site that Fire Station 12 will be the first new fire station built in the city in 18 years.
“And it’ll be the first new fire station built in Piper ever,” Callahan said.
Kane said ambulances got to him in time that October night when he said he “damn near died.” (He did not elaborate.) But for someone having a stroke, when every minute is crucial, the situation would have been even more perilous.
The nearest fire station for Piper residents is at 123rd and Leavenworth Road, which Kane described as “physically a pole barn.” To have a state-of-the-art station in his district, he said, is “unbelievable.”
Wyandotte County's population has grown rapidly in the last decade, particularly in the western part of the county, as new shopping and entertainment districts have sprouted.
Kansas City, Kansas, Mayor David Alvey said the government has not been proactive enough in meeting the needs of residents in the newer parts of the city.
“Here, we try to catch up to the growth, rather than get in front of the growth and I think we do that with a lot of our infrastructure,” Alvey said.
A 2015 review of the fire department found fire stations across the county weren’t evenly dispersed. The report said fire station coverage in the eastern part of the county was dense while coverage in the western part was too light.
But budget restrictions, along with growing tension between the fire department and Unified Government leadership, slowed progress on a new station.
Another new station to serve the western part of the Wyandotte County is still in the planning phase.
There’s something else that makes Fire Station 12 special to its residents. Callahan said Piper is home to many firefighters, police officers and their families.
“When they’re at work protecting the rest of KCK, they want their families protected,” Callahan said.
Fire Station 12 will house ten firefighters, two fire trucks and an ambulance. It’s expected to take a year to complete.
Lisa Rodriguez is a reporter and the afternoon newscaster for KCUR 89.3. Follow her on Twitter @larodrig.