The aerial platform from the Wichita fire department was a lot of help in fighting the Andale fire at the St. Joseph Catholic Church.
But the firefighter union local IFF 135 was critical of the platform unit leaving early.
In a social media post the union said, in part that, “The Wichita Professional Firefighters deeply regret the unfortunate situation to abandon our brothers and sisters of the Sedgwick County and surrounding volunteer fire companies during a difficult firefight in Andale early this morning.”
Wichita Fire Chief Tammy Snow issued an apology.
“This weekend we happened to have an error in judgement by one of our general staff members and we did not provide the service that we normally do to the citizens. And we regret that. Extremely sorry about that.”
Snow would not say who made the call to leave the scene.
Union leaders are asking if it could have been a decision to save on overtime.
“The fire was active and going on and somehow somebody made a call that truck be taken down and taken back to the city,” said Matt Schulte, President of the IFF local 135 in Wichita. “It was our understanding that the fire was still active and being fought. It wasn’t under control.”
Schulte says an apology is a good start, but he wonders if the decision gets back to money.
“My personal opinion is we are trying to save money right now,” says Schulte. “Obviously, there should have been a call to the Chief and everything goes to the chief and she should have said, no, leave that truck there if they need it. That’s what should have happened.”
While Snow would not say who made the call, she did say fire leadership is working on repairing the relationship with the union and county firefighters.
“A communication error. Those happen,” said Schulte. “But, there’s a stopping point. Everything is ultimately up to the chief in the fire department and if people have questions they should have contacted her.”
Chief Snow says they will be reiterating policies and procedures to staff and leadership when it comes to offering mutual aid to other departments.
Chief Snow also said she is disappointed the fire union took to social media to be critical.
“They should not be openly critical until they have gathered all the relevant facts,” said Snow.