The city has started temporarily closing fire stations in order to balance its budget. The rolling “brownouts” began with the closing of three fire companies as of 8:05 a.m. Monday.
Union members hosted a news conference as Engine 57 shut its doors for the day in West Philadelphia. Union officials said the closures are creating unsafe conditions in affected neighborhoods.
The city says these rotating brownouts will not have an impact on public safety and firefighters from those companies will be redeployed to other companies or will undergo training.
Fire Commissioner Lloyd Ayers said in the past, five companies a day were closed to training. But now only two companies per day will go to training.
“This is a game. This is moving pieces around in order to affect protection,” said Firefighters Union President Bill Gault. “Sooner or later its going to bite them in the butt.” LINK
One qualification that keeps most people from being successful politicians is the ability to lie with a straight face. It is a fundamental trait that only the best politicians have command of. You can see it in the big timers like Barack Obama and Bill Clinton, two of the all-time greats. But in this clip you can also see it in our villainous Mayor Mike Nutter. He looks right at the female reporter and lies straight in her face. She, being an ignorant reporter, stands there and takes it without so much as a serious follow-up. Honey, the city hasn’t got any smaller. So if each engine company covers a specific geographic area and you take TEN COMPANIES off the street, how in God’s name can response times NOT BE AFFECTED??? Idiot.
Today the Philadelphia Fire Department, at the direction of the Mayor and his “Public Safety Director” Everett Gillison ( a former public defender and a position CREATED by this Mayor), has started rotating fire company closings. That means during every shift (two a day) the department will arbitrarily close three fire companies. Those company’s firefighters will be spread throughout the city to fill in other vacancies. This begs the question – why do we have so many vacancies especially since we just took seven companies out of service last year? The short answer is that the city has refused to plan for the vacancies and hire enough firefighters. That has also led to us working overtime until we are sick and tired of it. (As someone who doesn’t mind working overtime as a rule I can tell you that our overtime is HORRENDOUS). It never stops. The Nutter administration is trying to frame the debate into a cost-saving, slash the overtime argument. Nothing could be further from the truth.
For YEARS the city has been content with having firefighters work overtime. It saved them from hiring full-time firefighters who cost more with benefits, etc. Yet the reality is their hiring practices are so mired in controversy because of their race-based hiring and promotion scandals, they can’t put in classes that are “diverse enough.” So even after a mass exodus of higher paid veteran firefighters over the last ten years, ramming through back to back classes, and closing seven companies and eliminating another one hundred plus unfilled positions, the city STILL is cutting our line companies. Why? For the record, there has been NO reduction in headquarters that I am aware of.
The Mayor says that safety won’t be compromised and he says it with a straight face. He also says companies are browned out all the time and nothing is changed, that this is all standard practice throughout the country. BULLSHIT! Like a typical politician he is playing fast and loose with the facts. Here is the REAL truth:
FACT: We USED to send SEVEN companies a day to fire school for training. Mind you it was mostly medical training, CPR, etc. Fire training ceased years ago (for the most part). Since Nutter CLOSED SEVEN COMPANIES they reduced that number to FIVE. Now three of those companies will be closed every shift and that will only allow TWO companies to go to fire school to train. Yeah, why would firefighters need to train anyway? For the record our union has complained about this practice as well.
FACT: Training is never conducted on the night shift because it is just too busy most nights and for safety reasons. So his argument falls apart right there. If we don’t train at night why close the companies on the night shift, the most dangerous of the two we work? Night time fires are always more likely to produce fatalities and injuries.
FACT: Nowhere in this country are rolling brownouts part of any fire protection scheme – at least in any responsible jurisdiction. They are exclusively used as cost-cutting measures.
FACT: Locals where companies that are browned out WILL have longer response times – no questions asked. No if, ands or buts. It is a physical certainty. It’s just a question of how much longer and can your emergency ride out the delay. For the record, the woman interviewed at the end is why we have politicians like this in the first place. She is just plain ignorant.
FACT: The Nutter administration has no plan for “rolling brownouts” of police stations. Why not? Of course THAT would be absurd. There are also no plans to brown out libraries, swimming pools, or any other government office. God knows we could close City Hall one day a week FOREVER and no one would be any worse off. Here’s an idea: ROLLING BROWNOUTS OF CITY COUNCIL. Hell politicians should be the FIRST to be furloughed.
FACT: A ton of overtime is generated because our EMS system is in chaos. We are so short staffed on paramedics that firemen are eithered detailed to the medic units when there is a vacancy (thereby causing a vacancy on the engine or ladder that has to be back-filled with overtime) or they have to be called in on overtime. Fixing our EMS system would go a long way to helping our staffing issues.
This winter is going to be bad if these cuts aren’t reversed. People will die and that is a certainty. But for the firefighters of this city things got bad right now. The anxiety and stress we face every time we get on the trucks has just gone up exponentially. My job just got more dangerous.
Maybe that’s why I spend so much time with my family right now.