Chester firefighters: we need help

July 10, 2008 7:06:08 PM PDT
A tragic fire that killed three people is sparking concerns from the very firefighters who tried to save them. Did a lack of equipment compromise the quality of response that crews on the scene were able to give?

Some members of the department say yes.

And they say that it's an ongoing problem.

The charred house is now adorned with colorful stuffed animals. "If we had two fully-staffed trucks in the west end, it would protect the next family and the next tragedy from happening," said Stacy Landrum of the Chester Firefighters' Union.

This is the West End fire house, one of only two in Chester.

Back in the 1990's it had two trucks and eight firefighters on duty at all times.

Now, it's one truck and four firefighters.

This is the company that responded to the house fire on Third Street on Sunday night. Three people were trapped inside.

The West End firefighters could only do so much until a backup truck from the East End arrived five minutes later...five critical minutes that could have meant the difference between life or death.

"You have to put the fire out, you have to ventilate, you have to search and rescue, and you can only be in one place at one time," said Landrum.

The first crew on the scene had its hands full.

They didn't have a chance to rescue Eddie Swain-Lane, Shanae Bailey and her three year old daughter, Anaija.

The firefighters have been working without a contract for a year and half. But, they say that's not why they're speaking out.

Chester's mayor Wendell Butler says the city has limited resources and he's satisfied with the current level of fire protection.

"We're going to do the right thing in terms of public safety and providing services. That's where we are at this point," he said.

The firefighters say it's not just this fire that concerns them.

They say they are constantly hampered by lack of staffing and resources.

"You can't do all things at once when you have a limited number of guys and our guys put their lives on the line every single time," said Landrum.

In the meantime the investigation into the cause of this fire continues. Sources say the origin may never be determined, but it does not appear to have been arson.