Fewer Trucks, "Brownouts" Planned for Memphis Fire Dept.

Fewer Trucks, "Brownouts" Planned for Memphis Fire Dept.

The Memphis Fire Department is down one ladder truck and a fire engine. Eight firefighters are being shuffled around since their trucks are no longer in service.
MEMPHIS, TN -- The Memphis Fire Department is down one ladder truck and a fire engine. Eight firefighters are being shuffled around since their trucks are no longer in service.

Both trucks are off the street because of budget cuts that went into effect September 1st. The department also rolled out a new option to save on overtime, Brownouts.

Brownouts are a practice of closing a station for 24 hours if too many firefighters are out sick. That means, residents may not get timely help during an emergency.

The changes were made to save money, some question if they're worth the risk to public safety.

It's still not clear exactly how the brownouts will be implemented, but the thought of closing a fire station, even for just a day, is scary for many people.

"I think they could find somewhere else to cut money from," says Mark Thompson. "I work right next to the station on Raleigh LaGrange."

Thompson's worried now that Station 48's ladder truck has been taken away.

"If we caught on fire the nearest station is Frayser. That's ten minutes away. A lot of damage could be done in ten minutes with a big fire."

Firefighters work on two different types of trucks: engines and ladders.

Fire engines carry water. Firefighters can start putting out flames as soon as they get to a fire. They can't go inside the home until a ladder truck arrives.

Firefighters on ladder trucks turn off utilities, conduct searches and rescues and ventilate homes.

You would need both trucks to fight a fire. Memphis now has 20 ladder trucks covering the city.

The city's also looking at using Brownouts.

If too many firefighters call in sick, instead of paying overtime for off-duty firefighters to come in, the city can shut down a station for 24 hours and send its workers to other stations.

"Shutting down fire stations, I'm speechless," says Patrick Morris.

"I understand every body's having to make cuts," says Thompson. "That don't seem like it would be the place to cut."

Affected neighborhoods would have to wait longer for service.

Fire leaders have said they'd only close four stations at a time, spacing them throughout the city. That's not easing fears.

"If it takes them longer to get there anything could happen. Someone could die," says Shaquala Williams.

"It's terrible," Morris says. "It's Memphis though. It's either that or they threaten to do tax increases."

As you can imagine, the Memphis Fire Union is following this very closely. Members didn't want to comment Sunday, saying they don't have full details on how Brownouts are going to be used. They're expecting some changes soon.

We're keeping a close eye on the situation and will keep you posted.
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