“COVID is affecting our family of city employees,” Staff Reports

KCFD reports a third COVID-related death

KCFD Fire Capt. Robert “Bobby” Rocha (left) died Nov. 21, from COVID-19. He was a 29-year veteran of the fire department. A day later KCFD mourned yet another loss, Scott Davidson (right). He was a communications specialist and paramedic and was an 18-year veteran of the fire department.

By Newsroom Staff

First responders continue placing themselves in harm’s way in a bid to save others from COVID-19, but even they remain vulnerable to the virus.

Few agencies know that better than the Kansas City Fire Department, which, last weekend, reported its second and third COVID-related deaths since the pandemic began. The fire department’s first human casualty of the virus was EMT Billy Birmingham, who died in April.

Among the most recent deaths was KCFD Fire Capt. Robert “Bobby” Rocha, who died Nov. 21. Rocha, 60, was a 29-year veteran of the fire department. The Greater Kansas City Fire Union, of which Rocha was a member, announced his passing.

Kansas City Mayor Quinton Lucas, in a written statement, paid tribute to Rocha and his sacrifice working on the frontlines of the battle against COVID.

“Captain Rocha fought valiantly for weeks against COVID-19,” Lucas said. “We honor his sacrifice and courage for the people of Kansas City and pray for his family, friends, our Fire Department, and all our frontline workers facing this terrible disease.”

KCFD Fire Chief Donna Lake, too, praised Rocha and his work. “(Rocha’s) passing represents a personal loss to all of us who knew him,” Lake told KCTV5 News. “I cherish both his friendship and professionalism.”

COVID has claimed another life, another member of the KCFD family said Geoff Jolley former KCFD firefighter. “I didn’t have the honor of working with Robert “Bobby” Rocha as much as many others, but he was one of my favorite people, and when we did work together, it was always memorable.

The first time I worked with Bobby, he gave me a hard time for being an attorney and a firefighter, as all firefighters can appreciate. He would jokingly question why I wasn’t smarter or better at my job given that “extensive legal training”. His sense of humor was legendary and he would always refer to me as “counselor” from then on when we saw each other or spoke to one another throughout my career.

When he became a floating Captain in Battalion 105, we got to work together a number of times. In fact, one of my most memorable fire service experiences was with him. I was WOC’ing as FAO (working as the driver that day) and we got called to an assault at Arrowhead Stadium. In the midst of doing CPR, and addressing the patient’s trauma, I jumped in to the ambulance and we took off to the hospital. We quickly realized there were three firefighters in the ambulance, meaning we left our Captain (Bobby) alone at the scene with the firetruck. As those who know him will understand, when we got back to the stadium, he was giving “public service” tours of the firetruck to tailgaters at the game. As you can imagine, he was pretty unhappy with me (deservedly so) and the ambulance crew for leaving him. He would gently remind me of being the only driver to ditch him for years after.

Bobby lived life to its fullest. He had a larger-than-life personality that meant everyone on KCFD had a Bobby Rocha story. He was a hell of a firefighter who spent most of his career at some of the busiest stations in the City and someone many of us looked up to. He was incredibly proud of his son, Riley (pictured below with Bobby) for the person and firefighter he has become. Sending all my love to his family, brothers and sisters of KCFD, friends, and our community.

We have suffered another significant loss. We love you Bobby and will never forget you!

Only one day later, on Nov. 22, the KCFD mourned the loss of communications specialist and paramedic Scott Davidson. The 45-year-old Davidson was an 18-year veteran of the fire department.

“Scott was a calming voice that answered the call and ensured help was coming when our residents called the fire department for assistance,” Lake said in a press release. “Unfortunately, he succumbed to this deadly virus. His passing, too, is a personal loss to all of us who knew him and called him a friend. My heart goes out to his family.”

Lucas offered his condolences to Davidson’s family in the same press release.

“Scott Davidson was a wonderful man who served the Kansas City Fire Department so well and the community he loved. My heart goes out to his family, friends, KCFD, and all who knew him,” Lucas said. “I hope all will do everything they can to keep others from having to deal with this terrible disease.”

Davidson is survived by his wife and three stepchildren.

Fire Chief Lake urged both first responders and citizens to take the steps necessary to protect themselves from the ravages of the virus.

“KCFD first responders continue to put their lives on the line daily in service to our City as this pandemic rages on,” she said. “My request to all is to follow the guidance to protect yourself and your family from this virus.”

Despite that advice to protect oneself and one’s family, one of the busiest travel weeks of the year looms large, and more than a million travelers passed through airports on Friday, Nov. 20, alone, according to information from the Transportation Security Administration. These growing numbers of passengers continued to rise on Sunday as the U.S. passed a grim milestone – its 20th day in a row of more than 1,000 new COVID cases reported, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

And first responders like Davidson and Rocha had been working in the weeks prior to stifle that growing number of infections, highlighting the danger in which law enforcement officials and hospital workers place themselves.

Acting City Manager Earnest Rouse echoed Lake’s advice to be mindful of the health of yourself and those around you. “COVID is affecting our family of city employees, and this loss is a terrible reminder that we all need to help stop the spread.”