Philadelphia fire Department faces budget cuts

SPRING GARDEN - July 27, 2010 Faced with a continuing budget crisis the fire department needs to cut $3.8 million of overtime. They will now employ a plan officials say is being used by fire departments in New York, Los Angeles and other places, shutting down fire houses daily on a temporary basis.

"That strategy is going to be about what we in fire service call, brown outs."

Fire Commissioner Lloyd Ayers called it the least painful strategy of all, instead of laying off firefighters and paramedics they will close down firehouses on a rolling basis throughout the city.

Beginning August 2nd the department plans to temporarily shut down three fire companies per shift over two shifts per day.

"So that will be 3 on the day work and 3 on the night work and we will look at that process over a period of time."

Comm. Ayers says in reality the department has already been doing brownouts for years, shutting down five companies per day for training at the academy. But for now they will only be taking two companies out of service for training to cut overtime.

Last year the budget crisis forced the city to shutdown five engine and two ladder companies. These latest cuts have union officials warning of dire budget consequences.

"As citizens I would learn CPR, I would put buckets of water in my house and I would be prepared to wait for emergency services," said Bill Gault, President of Fire Union 22.

Union officials point out that last week in San Diego a 2-year-old boy choked on a gumball and died because it took paramedics 9 and 1/2 minutes to respond due to brownouts there.

"You're going to be seeing same situations here, we're going to be spread so thin, Friday nights, Saturday nights when the city the runs are through the roof the companies are going to be criss-crossing there's going to be gaps everywhere. So the citizens really need to wake up and realize the dangers they're going to be put in," said Michael Bresnan of Local 22.

Councilwoman Donna Reed Miller, Chairwoman of the Public Safety Committee, is unclear how this plan may affect public safety. She plans to meet with commissioner Ayers to learn how the plan may affect neighborhoods.

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