Another Kansas City leader retires: Chief Paul Berardi of the Kansas City Fire Department

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KCFD Chief Paul Berardi and Mayor Sly James expressed their condolences for the two firefighters who lost their lives Monday while helping rescue people from a burning apartment that collapsed.

KCFD Chief Paul Berardi and Mayor Sly James expressed their condolences for the two firefighters who lost their lives Monday while helping rescue people from a burning apartment that collapsed.

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Kansas City just named its new chief of police and now it will begin to search for a new fire chief.

Fire Chief Paul Berardi announced he is retiring. Chief Berardi began his career with the Kansas City Fire Department in 1986. He was appointed fire chief in 2013, after serving in an interim role when former Chief Richard Smokey Dyer retired.

In the announcement of his promotion, Chief Berardi was commended for exhibiting ‘responsiveness, strength, leadership and determination.’

“We have met many challenges these past five years and it has been a great honor to be called ‘Chief,'” Berardi said. “I have had the honor of working alongside some of the best fire and EMS service professionals anywhere and sincerely appreciate your commitment to the labor and management partnership that has done much to fuel our improvement.  Organizationally our department is strong and, when called upon, it has never faltered and never will.”

John Mesh and Larry Leggio

Chief Berardi led the department through one of its most difficult times beginning October 12, 2015, when two firefighters, Larry Leggio, 43, and John Mesh, 39, were killed while fighting a fire at a 100-year-old building at Prospect and Independence Avenues.  Following investigations and reviews of the fire tactics, it was determined that Leggio and Mesh were in a dangerous position within a ‘Collapse Zone.’

One report recommended 14 changes to policy and training, which Chief Berardi led his department in implementing.

“I acknowledge that something went wrong at this fire—two good men died,” said Fire Chief Paul Berardi in the news release. “The purpose of this report is to lessen the likelihood of that happening again. Our deepest obligation is learn where we can make our actions safer and more effective, and to ensure that we share those tragic lessons with firefighters everywhere.”

“The fire chief is responsible for public safety and serves at-will under the day-to-day administrative direction of the city manager. In addition to providing oversight and leadership for the day-to-day operational activities of this complex organization, the chief also serves as a technical adviser to other City departments, the Mayor and the City Council regarding fire, disaster management and EMS issues. The chief is also responsible for establishing and maintaining a positive employee/labor relations climate and ensuring the proper and efficient use of resources,” the city explained.

Under Berardi’s leadership, several programs designed to improve the department were launched. Among those he said he’s most proud of are:

  • Apprentice program for high school students
  • Decentralized and electronic in-service training
  • Regionalized dispatching

“Chief Berardi has done an outstanding job leading our fire department and we will sorely miss his dedication and commitment to making sure that all our residents receive the best fire and EMS service in the country,” City manager Troy Schulte said. “I don’t necessarily look forward to trying to fill his shoes, but I believe the groundwork he’s laid for the next chief is solid and I thank him for that.”

KC’s 45th police chief, Rick Smith

Last month, the city’s 45th police chief was sworn in after former Chief Darryl Forte retired in May. Chief Rick Smith now leads the Kansas City, Mo., Police Department. Chief Smith has been on the Kansas City police force for nearly 30 years. The search for a new fire chief now begins.