LIBERTY — Liberty Fire Chief John Mills is three weeks into 2020 and the start of his first full year as chief. He has been with the city since January 2001 and served for three months as interim chief after former Chief Mike Snider left to take a job as chief in Lee’s Summit. In mid-November 2019, Mills was officially named chief.
Mills has taken over a department that is holding to a similar pattern seen in 2018 in regard to calls for service. In 2018, the total number of calls hit 4,531. In 2019, the number climbed by 99 to 4,630.
“The call volume is up a bit, but nothing that is out of the ordinary,” he said. “However, the overall numbers show that 3,030 are medical calls.”
The rest of the calls for service are spread among accidents, serving stand-by for other neighboring departments and fires.
“We had 28 structure fires in 2019 and 31 in 2018 so I would say that number is consistent,” Mills said. “On the whole, it was a pretty standard year. Nothing really stands out as far as those numbers.”
While the city calls for service are static, Mills and the department personnel continue improving their skills.
“We participate with the community emergency management drills and meetings to talk and share ideas in preparation for disasters and accidents,” said Mills, who also serves as the city’s emergency manager. In recent weeks, he has been helping coordinate the city’s response to ice and snow.
Mills said there is also work done with Mid-America Regional Council and agencies in Johnson County and Wyandotte counties in Kansas.
“I want to continue on this forward momentum, this path in 2020,” he said.
Mills oversaw the construction of the training tower firefighters in Liberty and other departments use for training. The tower recently had a live burn and put department staff through paces in smoke-filled hallways.
“I am looking at more props for the training tower and a chance to bring in new techniques,” he said.
The Liberty department will continue purchasing a second set of bunker gear for each firefighter.
“This is in response to studies about leaving debris on bunker gear and the potential for carcinogens to remain on the gear,” he said.
The department also plans to add staff this year as it is three staff members short.
“With the call numbers for emergency medical service, I am looking at hiring an EMS chief in the spring,” Mills said. “There are a lot of changes in Medicare, paperwork and other needs that could benefit from a direct supervisor. I also have to hire a shift commander before that.”