Phila. fire companies close

January 5, 2009 4:37:34 PM PST
Facing a fiscal emergency, the city of Philadelphia shut down seven fire companies Monday.Among those closed, Engine 8, the oldest Fire Company in the United States.

"The building will remain open, but you can't put fires out," said Brian McBride, Firefighters Local 22 President. "It's like a library without any books."

Despite resident protests and a lawsuit from the firefighters union, Mayor Michael Nutter and Fire Commissioner Lloyd Ayers said the move intended to save the city ten million dollars in overtime would not compromise safety.

"One of the things we watch is not just types of fires, but how long it takes us to respond and right now we're meeting those national standards," said Commissioner Ayers.

Residents say many of the city streets are too narrow and too densely populated to have cut back on any equipment.

"It's not fair for the residents, it's not fair for the fire department. It's not fair for anyone," said Rita Corman of Manayunk.

McBride said this same plan was proposed four years ago, but was rejected.

"Mayor Street saw it was a dangerous plan and didn't do it and councilman Nutter also saw it was a dangerous plan at that time. But today it's different. He's being sold a different bill of goods by the commissioner and people are going to die," McBride said.

"This is a cost saving measure. The city is safe, and the plan was done by the professionals in the department, and developed with their expertise," Mayor Nutter said.

Commissioner Ayers says he will be re-evaluting the plan every day and if he feels that citizens or firefighters are in danger he will not hesititate to tell the mayor the plan needs adjustment.

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