Did fire department 'brownout' hinder rescue?

STRAWBERRY MANSION - September 8, 2010

While there is no debating that Philadelphia firefighters help avert a tragedy, some argue the department's brownouts hindered the response.

The fire broke out around 2:30 a.m. on the 2400 block of North 30th Street.

Firefighters managed to get the toddler and the three others out safely - but they all had to be rushed to the hospital for smoke inhalation.

It happened only four blocks away from Engine 45 - closed at the time due to the fire departments rolling brownouts - the city's means of cutting costs by shutting down certain engine companies.

Local 22's union president, Bill Gault, says if the engine company was open perhaps those kids would not have been sent to the hospital.

Furthermore, he says their lives aren't the only ones in danger.

"My guys are doing heroic stuff, grabbing kids without the aid of a hose line," Gault said.

Fire Commissioner Lloyd Ayers says firefighters did their jobs and did what they were trained to do -- he says Engine 45 would have been there sooner but the rescues would have been made just the same.

But some Strawberry Mansion residents are not convinced.

"There are other ways he could save money. Don't cut our fire houses out," said resident Maria Bathia.

Commissioner Ayers said he too wishes there was another way to save money but, for now, this is the only alternative.

The fire union vows to continue to fight it.

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