Firefighters say "no confidence" in City Hall

February 6, 2009 3:55:46 PM PST
Philadelphia firefighters say they have "no confidence" in Fire Commissioner Lloyd Ayers and Mayor Michael Nutter.The firefighter's union says City Hall has sacrificed safety to trim down the budget during this devastating recession.

A couple of hundred off-duty firefighters gathered outside the fire administration building in Spring Garden Friday morning to publicly register their anger and frustration over the decision to close five engine companies and two ladder companies.

The cuts, which took effect last month, are projected to save $10 million per year.

The firefighters claim those moves have left large parts of city unsafe.

"Already we have seen the devastating and dangerous impact of these cuts," said Union President Brian McBride into a loudspeaker during the rally. "Fire deaths and injuries have shot through the roof. So far this winter, over a dozen people have been killed in fires. That was 10 times more than last year. Civilian injuries have doubled, and firefighter injuries have risen about 50%."

The union says those numbers are from the fire marshal. The city says those numbers are skewed to make a point, and that overall fire deaths are down.

The union is also launching a radio ad campaign, that portrays a woman trapped in her home, imperiled because of slow response time, caused by the closing of the nearest ladder company.

Mayor Nutter continues to point to studies that say the budget cuts are not putting the citizenry in greater peril.

"We're going to continue doing our job on a daily basis and not be distracted by all of this external chatter and confusion, if not hysteria, that's being generated by the union to scare Philadelphians. Philadelphians know better than this" Mayor Nutter said.

Nutter adds, the union is more concerned about losing overtime pay than they are about shelving those seven pieces of equipment.

Union leaders call that a "slap in the face."

In a statement, Fire Commissioner Lloyd Ayers said "Like many other cities, Philadelphia is undergoing major changes and along with the rest of the country our financial situation has been seriously compromised. Other major cities have also taken drastic steps in response to the fiscal crisis which also impacts their respective Fire Departments. "

Ayers continued: "We have not closed any firehouses, laid off any firefighters or demoted any fire officers."

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