July 17, 2010

MOCO FATE? Rolling fire department closures in Philly

New cuts may be coming to the Philadelphia Fire Department and they could include rolling closures of firehouses. What if you stopped by your local firehouse and found the firefighters who would normally be first to answer your call weren't there at all that day? It could happen. The city announced as many as four units each day may be taken out of service in neighborhoods city wide in hopes of saving more than $3.5 million in overtime to ease the city's budget crunch.

"He's (Mayor Michael Nutter) rolling the dice and he's playing Russian roulette with people's lives," said Bill Gault, President of Local 22, the firefighters' union.

Unlike past permanent shutdowns of five engine and two ladder companies, which prompted large neighborhood protests, neighbors apparently won't be told in advance or perhaps at all if their local engine or ladder company is being put out of service.

"It's smoke and mirrors. The citizens don't have any idea there's nobody in there," Gault said.

When asked if the rolling service cuts were an attempt to disguise fire department cutbacks in order to defuse neighborhood protests, Mayor Nutter said: "We've been very straightforward quite frankly. We're not disguising anything." Nutter said the rolling cuts will enable the city to avoid layoffs and added that protection for residents will not be impacted.

"When you call 911, we show up, that's the bottom line," Nutter said. CBS 3 Philly

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