The addition of an emergency line specifically to address fireworks complaints on the Fourth of July seemed to provide quick dividends for Sedgwick County authorities on Wednesday night.
Five dispatchers and a supervisor began staffing a phone line — 316-290-1011 — from 6 p.m. Wednesday until 3 a.m. Thursday in order to keep 911 free for emergency calls.
The county originally had four dispatchers set up for the special line but decided to up the number by one dispatcher on Wednesday.
Sedgwick County officials didn’t have exact numbers on the calls late Wednesday but did say the extra line appeared to be working and by 10 p.m. the main 911 line had not been clogged.
Last year on the Fourth of July, a deluge of calls to 911 tied up all 20 emergency phone lines, with many of the calls being fireworks complaints.
Two callers trying to report a serious motorcycle accident that night in west Wichita couldn’t get through to dispatchers because of the clogged phone lines. The motorcyclist later died and county commissioners later authorized the separate fireworks line to prevent a similar occurrence from happening this year.
The special phone number was part of Sedgwick County’s network, with dispatchers simply needing to log on differently from their normal stations to receive calls.
And while the specially designated line did help, some calls still came to 911 reporting fireworks complaints — although not the mass amount that shut down the lines last year.
By late Wednesday there was just one reported fireworks-related accident, in Park City, but the burn victim refused a trip to the hospital. Another burn victim, at 555 S. Broadway, was the result of hot water.
The Wichita Fire Department was particularly busy on Wednesday, with lines backed up to at least 10 calls just past 10 p.m. Grass fires seemed to be the biggest nuisance, including two fires less than a mile apart — at 119th West and 37th streets and 119th West and 45th streets.