City’s preparation, practice helped firefighters effectively battle worst blaze in Overland Park history

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OVERLAND PARK, Kan. -- Prepared for the worst – Overland Park leaders had an extensive plan in place when the eight-alarm fire erupted Monday.

The flames began at the CityPlace development at College Boulevard and Nieman Road just after 3 p.m. and continued to become the biggest fire emergency to ever hit the town.

While firefighters were pouring water onto the burning building, emergency response staff and volunteers were providing vital support.

“Yesterday was a historical moment,” said Kyle Burns, emergency management coordinator for OP. “We had over 50 different units, all the way from Lawrence, Kan., Kansas City, Mo., that came to support the fire.”

Burns said lots of preparation and practice led up to this moment.

“In order to prepare for scenarios like the fire that happened last night we do training exercises in the emergency operations center that better prepare us to handle these types of emergencies,” he said.

It was an emergency that prompted more than 400 dispatch calls and nearly 50 fire units, with emergency management teams providing much needed support for first responders on the ground.

“We coordinated refueling operations, canteen operations, which supplied food, water, rehabilitation for first responders,” Burns said, “and we also coordinated with the American Red Cross.”

The result was a rapid response in which communication and cooperation was key.

“I think our fire crews did an outstanding job,” Burns said. “I think it was amazing to see all of the different responders and agencies come together and work as one team.”

Burns said this is just the beginning, as his teams must now transition into damage assessment and recovery.