Saturday, October 13, 2018
City accused of playing ‘shell game’
By Joe Gorman
Youngstown Professional Firefighters Local 312 said Friday that the city’s decision to mothball a firetruck at its downtown fire station is putting improvements to the city’s downtown at risk.
In a statement posted on its Facebook page and sent to local media, the union said the city is playing a “shell game,” because while no firefighters are being laid off or stations closed, fire protection is being reduced.
The union said the downtown has several high-rise buildings, new businesses and a new hotel that are being affected because the absence of a truck downtown means less equipment and personnel are available to respond and put out a fire in the immediate vicinity of the downtown station.
The city has been closing stations on a rotating basis since July and decided last week to cease operations on one of the downtown trucks in an effort to save money, because the city is facing a projected deficit of more than $2 million by the end of 2019.
The city will permanently eliminate three fire captains and three lieutenant positions. Those individuals will be demoted, as will three additional lieutenants whose positions will be filled by the demoted captains.
Station One on Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard houses a ladder truck and what is termed a rescue squad, or Squad 33.
The plan is to cease operations on Squad 33, thereby leaving the station with just the ladder truck.
The closest station to downtown is Station 7 at Madison Avenue and Elm Street. One engine is housed there.
Chief Barry Finley said if there is an emergency downtown, the ladder truck will still respond, as well as the truck from Station 7. He said if the ladder truck is on another call and a truck is needed downtown, then a truck will come from one of the other stations in the city, much as it would if Station 1 is fully staffed and both trucks there were occupied on another call.
The city council member for downtown, Julius Oliver, D-1st, said he trusts that Finley and the administration have plans in place to deal with emergencies downtown.
“I’m confident the fire chief has put together a plan that will work for the downtown and the entire city,” Oliver said.
Oliver said it is also important to remember that no city firefighters are being laid off and no stations are closing.
Mayor Jamael Tito Brown said that the same number of trucks will still respond to an emergency downtown, which would be the truck from Station 1 and the truck from Station 7. Brown said he has complete confidence in Finley, who he said looked at all data before deciding that the rescue squad would be taken out of service.
Brown also said Squad 33 is more suited to respond to a rescue-type situation rather than a fire. He said, however, if rescue equipment is needed downtown, firefighters in Station 1 could take that truck to an emergency because it will still be at the station.
Tony Ciccone, head of the union, said that while having Station 7 respond to an emergency downtown sounds good on paper, the truth is they are still not as close to respond as the Squad 33. It is also not good for the city as a whole, Ciccone said.
“It sounds good, but I just don’t understand how it’s going to work,” Ciccone said. “No matter what numbers you throw out there, we are now at nine trucks covering the city when there used to be 10.”
Ciccone also said he is concerned if the truck from Station 1 needs backup downtown and Station 7 is not available. That station is very busy because of its location and often answers a lot of alarm-drop calls, Ciccone said.