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Fire Department Budget Cuts Creating "Brownouts"

Memphis Fire Department budget cuts are taking their toll.
MEMPHIS, TN (localmemphis.com) - Memphis Fire Department budget cuts are taking their toll.

So far, there have been two brownouts. A brownout happens when the fire department takes fire trucks out of service if there aren't enough people working.

The head of the firefighters union says it is a practice that could cost lives.

Brownouts is a made up term. Power companies use it when they reduce the flow of electricity. The Memphis Fire Department uses it when they have to temporarily shut down trucks because of not enough personnel and not enough money to pay overtime.

“If we have X number of people out sick, injured, or whatever we only pay up to so many people on overtime and after that they start browning out equipment,” Thomas Malone of the Memphis Firefighters Association said.

There have been two of these brownouts in the last five days. It means taking fire trucks out of service. When that happens, the neighborhood has to rely on crews from other sections of the city to show up.

“When they're cutting our staffing and cutting our equipment and cutting the people we have for day to day work, it's going to impact services, And it's that simple,” Malone said.

The fire department has to cut $5.5 million and outside of permanently closing a fire station, the department decided on these rotating brownouts. The trouble is, nobody gets a chance to prepare. There is no notice on when a truck will be parked because there aren't enough firefighters to staff it.

“Our people are, I'm afraid, going to go to work and try to do what they can do and it's going to create injuries and possibly death and this is not an alarmist here, this is fire department facts,” Malone said.

Thomas Malone said morale is low and there are a lot of firefighters who are talking about leaving.
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