KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Thirty years ago today, six Kansas City firefighters lost their lives in a tragedy that forever changed the community.
Their deaths helped transform the job of first responders.
The memorial, near 87th Street and Blue River Road, marks the spot where the six firefighters rushed to extinguish what they thought was a routine fire. It turned out to be their last call.
Dozens of people turned out at the memorial Thursday morning to remember the men and the sacrifices they made in service to their city.
The explosion at a construction trailer that took their lives awakened the city and the fire department to the need to become more specialized.
Firefighters soon afterwards trained to recognize hazardous materials and how best to respond to the dangers they pose.
“It was such a turning point for a lot of people,” Fire Chief Gary Reese said. “Firefighting is often an easy, fun thing. But it can be very dangerous, too. Sometimes when you’re called to make that ultimate sacrifice, it’s such a large amount. Six people in one instant were gone. It woke everybody up here I think, and people started having a conversation about how to get things a little safer.”
The explosives that killed the firefighters, ammonium nitrate and fuel oil, were the same deadly mixture used to bomb the federal office building in Oklahoma City seven years later. Only the construction trailer had five times the amount of explosive material used in domestic attack.
The diamond shaped signs you see on buildings and vehicles now help firefighters identify hazardous material dangers. That’s one of the safety advances that resulted from this tragic loss.