Officials investigating accusation that KC firefighter doused homeless camp with water on frigid night

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. — It’s being called an act of needless cruelty.

A homeless man said Kansas City firefighters doused him with water from their hoses, and he said it happened on one of the coldest nights of the winter. Kansas City officials confirm an investigation into the matter is underway.

The underpass at 20th and Oak streets is cold, but it’s home to several people who have nowhere else to go.

One of them, 72-year-old Phil Bucalo, said workers from Kansas City Fire Department came to put out his campfire early Tuesday morning. When they did, he said they intentionally flooded him and his belongings on the cold night.

Bucalo, a native of New York City, said it was only a small fire, and since he now lives on the streets of KC, it was his means of keeping warm.

“I said, ‘Look, if this little fire here presents a problem, I’d be more than happy to put it out,'” Bucalo said.

But Bucalo, who said he once served in the U.S. Army, said the firefighter with the hose in his hand didn’t care, and water from that hose doused the fire, as well as Bucalo and all of his belongings, in weather that went below 20 degrees.

“I said, ‘This isn’t necessary. This thing isn’t this big. I can put it out in 5 minutes if you want it put out,'” Bucalo said Wednesday. “It took a good day before we could get another fire going.”

People who care for the city’s homeless showed FOX4 items of Bucalo’s clothing, some of which is still stiff and rigid, frozen from being soaked for a day.

Lacey Langford is one of several people who stopped to care for Bucalo. Langford said she and her children were homeless at one time, and she’s upset over recent incidents that suggest city leaders want to drive out people with no home.

“I don’t blame the fire department as a whole, but if they don’t take action on the unethical behavior of the men who did this, I’m afraid of what may lie ahead,” Langford said.

Kansas City fire officials confirm they put out a campfire at that location Tuesday at 2 a.m., and that an investigation is ongoing to determine whether or not people were soaked.

KCFD Deputy Chief James Walker told FOX4 that kind of behavior wouldn’t be tolerated, but firefighters are required to put out small fires like the one Bucalo started.

“The homeless people of our community are as important as someone who lives in a $10 million home. Knowing the people who do our job, I have trouble believing that would happen,” Walker said.

Walker pointed to several other recent fires, including one under a bridge on Beardsley Road that has left that road closed since November and caused, according to Walker, $2 million in damage.

He said he still doesn’t believe a firefighter turned the hose on the homeless. But if the investigation shows someone did, Walker said they’d be subject to discipline.



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