Will Firehouse Brownouts Place Neighborhoods In Peril?

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STANDING outside Fire Engine 57 in Cobbs Creek, Fire Fighter Union President Bill Gault said "brownouts", or periodic closures of fire stations to save money, will cause response times to become dangerously high and put neighbors at risk.

Will “brownouts” put out the overtime the city has to pay to firefighters, or will it spike up more casualties should fires occur?
Rolling the dice is Mayor Michael Nutter. He is closing down, for a shift, a minimum of six firehouses daily. That’s three during the day and three at night.
Objecting to the gamble of lives and property is Bill Gault, president of Fire Fighters Union Local 22.  He charges, “The ‘Rolling Brownouts’, put in force by Mayor Michael Nutter and his Fire Commissioner Lloyd Ayers, will only increase deaths and injuries from fires.
“Four minutes is the criterion by which we can save lives and fight fires effectively,”  Gault states. “We need to be on the scene in that time frame to be effective.”
The Mayor believes the firefighters, transferred to other facilities when theirs is  “browned out” or shut down for the shift, will effectively cut into overtime.  He needs to pare down the budget, and overtime is one way to do it.
Gault blasted the Mayor and Fire Commissioner for presenting stats claiming the City “is safer from fire than a year ago despite their cutting five engine companies and two ladder companies last year.”
Now the brownouts are in effect, Gault noted in a press conference outside Fire Engine 57 at 56th & Chestnut, which had been the first to brown out, “Citizens are in more jeopardy.”
Gault said he does not know how the brownouts will serve the citizens. “Deaths due to fire are up 36% in 2010, fire injuries to civilians are up.”
Gault said  citizens are “so used to getting quick responses” they did not “flinch with the browning announcement which now will close six companies daily.”
He blasted  the closure of Engine 57, saying,“Last year, Engine 57 completed 3,978 runs, more than 10 runs a day.”
Transferring personnel from the browned-out stations to others will further stretch the thin line of firefighters, according to Gault.
Gault noted, “Fire service in Philadelphia was designed and is based on response times. Every resident, in theory, should have life saving equipment and personnel about the same distance away. Fire Stations and Fire Companies were and are placed and designed to protect lives and property.
“It is time to stop using the Fire Stations as the City’s ATM machines.  Nutter needs cash for another problem, he closes a Fire Station – that’s unsafe for us and for citizens.“
Firefighters will now engage the public to the damage handed down by the brownout decision. Gault said City Council will be asked to investigate how this decision was made. Local 22 will be issuing warning notices to every browned-out station, to alert neighborhoods what not to expect in response times.
Local 22, stated Gault,  will ask City Council “to restore the $3.8 million the Mayor claims he is saving in overtime by these closings.  It’s pennies in a City that spends $4 billion on the annual budget.
“Local 22 will ask Council to hire and train new firefighters. We haven’t had a new training class in two years, despite the fact five firefighters a month retire or are injured.”
He noted in the “past 18 months, the City has cut 235 fire fighter positions and 12 fire companies, who are first responders for virtually every emergency call placed by citizens.”

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