Less than two months after Kansas City Health Inspectors poured bleach on free food being handed out by concerned citizens to the homeless, the Kansas City Fire Department is now under scrutiny for what some say was a petty action against a homeless man.
The incident happened on New Year’s day just two hours after folks in the warmth of their homes rang in the New Year. At that time temps were in the upper teens around Kansas City.
That’s when firefighters responded to a tiny camp fire being used by the homeless man while temperatures were in the teens.
The homeless man, 72-year-old Phil Bucalo, said he was unnecessarily hosed down by Kansas City firefighters with a full blast from the fire hose when a bucket of water would have done just fine, and left him with dry clothes.
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.
Despite offering to extinguish the campfire himself with a bucket of water, Bucalo, a US veteran, said the firefighters went all out, spraying the fire and soaking him as well.
“All of the sudden the hose opened up,” he recalled. “The fire was doused, I was doused, clothes back there were doused.”
Lacey Langford started the public outcry over the incident after finding Bucalo later on New Year’s Day “still frozen in his clothes.”
People who care for the city’s homeless showed local television crews items of Bucalo’s clothing, some of which was still frozen stiff and rigid.
Lacey, a homeless advocate, filed a formal complaint with the Kansas City Fire Department and posted about it on social media.
“They left him, in my opinion, for dead in 19-degree weather soaking wet,” Langford said.
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.
KCFD officials admit the incident happened, explaining that they were just trying to put out an illegal burn fire and would never “intentionally” douse a homeless person.
“We would never do anything to make their lives harder than they already are,” Deputy Fire Chief Jimmy Walker explained.
Walker noted the incident is under investigation and the crews involved are being questioned. He didn’t explain how he can unequivocally say the firefighters acted correctly before the investigation has been completed.