Trenton fire dept. considering 'rolling closures'
TRENTON, N.J. - February 22, 2012 (WPVI) -- The Trenton Fire Department is considering shutting down some firehouses on certain days of the week in an effort to cut down on overtime costs.
They call it "rolling closures", and the community is wondering what it will mean for their safety.
In an effort to offset about $5 million in overtime costs for Trenton firefighters, the department is considering rolling closures of different firehouses throughout the city or simply outright closing Engine 6 on North Clinton Avenue and Engine 8 on Stuyvesant.
"The citizens of this city are going to be less safe, because now our response times are obviously going to increase," said Wayne Wolk, President of the Firefighter's Union. "They are going to have less firefighters on the ground."
The plan is to rely on help from departments in neighboring towns like Hamilton, Ewing and Lawrence.
When people are out sick or on vacation, there aren't enough bodies to staff all the department's trucks at mandated levels, so that leads to overtime.
Union officials say overtime is such a problem because with 202 firefighter manpower levels have dropped to what they were 10 years ago.
"They are so shorthanded in the city of Trenton that automatically we are going to create overtime. They haven't hired anybody," said Captain Mike Candelori, President of the Superior Officers' Union.
The fire director says he doesn't like the idea of closing any firehouse, but he has to deal with reality.
"We're in a financial crisis here, and to actually have millions of dollars in overtime costs is just imaginable," said Fire Director Quareeb Bashir.
Also on the chopping block are the fire department's emergency medical runs, where EMT-trained firefighters often arrive on the scene before an ambulance.
A minister who lives near Engine 8 promises to fight any possible closure of the firehouse.
"It's going to be a grave danger, because we already lost a hospital around here, and if we lose this firehouse with the two EMTs that's on it; you're just cutting the heart right out of this neighborhood," said Minister Lee Ingram.
"With so much going on in Trenton, I mean they don't need to close any of the firehouses. This is the only firehouse we have that is close," said Elaine Cromedy.
"Whatever decisions are made, safety will always be number one," said Bashir.
The fire director says he hopes to finalize plans to cut overtime costs quickly and will go public with his decision as soon as it's made.
trenton, new jersey, fire, local/state, nora muchanic
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