By Chance Chamberlain
The Central Cass Fire Department District was established in 1971 to provide coverage through much of southern Cass County. For many years, the department struggled with financial and personnel issues. But thanks to strong leadership and tax support, the department has been upgraded to become one of the top fire districts in the state with 24-hour staffing at its three stations and many technology upgrades.
The department was once operated solely by part-time staff and volunteers. In December 2018, the district got its first levy increase since the department’s inception.
The money was used to provide full-time staffing at the department. Additionally, the levy staffed station two in Archie 24-hours a day.
Central Cass Fire Chief Jimmy Sebree said, “We have 13 full-time staffers. There are two in each of the three stations 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Staffing is not necessarily due to the amount of calls we receive, but is because of the distance we have to cover. It makes our travel time a little higher.”
Sebree elaborated on the change to full time staffing.
“When we were part time, our staff of 25 had other obligations with different departments. This caused us to miss over 2,000 hours of coverage,” Sebree said.
Sebree earned an International Association of Fire Chiefs (IAFC) lifetime achievement award for Missouri fire service at the Missouri Fire Chief Conference in February.
Sebree has been with the Central Cass Fire Department since 1979 when he was a junior firefighter. He left the department for a period of time and came back to work part time. He took over part-time fire chief duties in October 2016, later to take over as full-time fire chief in December 2018.
Sebree said, “I made it full circle. I started here as a junior fireman and came back years later to take on the duties of fire chief. It’s weird how life works sometimes.”
The fire department covers 215 square miles with coverage from three fire stations. Station 1 is headquarters in Harrisonville. Station 2 is responsible for Archie and the surrounding area and station 3 is north of Harrisonville on 215th Street, near the County Creek golf coursDistrict awarded for improvements courses. It operates as a live-in station for college students and recent graduates from the Cass Career Center fire program.
In 2011, district patrons approved a no tax increase bond issue that funded two brush trucks, an ambulance and a new fire engine. Since that time, the department has received two additional bond extensions with the latest coming in 2019.
Sebree said, “The district has been very good to us in approving bonds over the last several years for equipment purchasing.”
The 2019 bond extension renovated station three to include an additional bay and will fund the rebuild of station one in its current location. It will also fund a new ambulance and purchasing is already in the works. Leftover funds from the bond will be used to purchase another brush truck, according to Sebree.
Sebree said, “The big-ticket item on the 2019 bond is the rebuilding of station one. We plan to keep it in its current location, but it needs to be improved. During the rebuild, Station 3 will serve as headquarters for the department.”
Sebree added, “We are trying our hardest to make improvements as we can to stay on top of the curve to better serve our community in need.”
Additionally, reserves were used to purchase 20 new SCBA breathing apparatus machines for firefighters, new automatic CPR machines for EMS use and new equipment for decontamination procedures.
EMS Director Ray Jones said, “We have added multiple steps to our equipment decontamination procedure. We started out using a hydrogen peroxide spray to cleanse our equipment after use. We recently added an ozone generator and UV lights to our procedure. These upgrades will make a great difference in killing germs and bacteria.”
Recently, the department transported units to Cass Regional Medical Center to be tested for contaminates.
Jones said, “We took our units to be tested and the results were very good on our end. A score of 20 or more indicates a dangerous amount of contaminates, a score of 10 or lower meets hospital disinfection standards and our units tested out at three. That means we are going above and beyond to keep our units safe.”
Jones added, “We are the only service in the area going to these lengths to keep those who we serve safe.”