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  1. #1
    Forum Member AZFF25's Avatar
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    Default Texas City to Reduce Staff on Fire Trucks

    Texas City to Reduce Staff on Fire Trucks

    SARAH COPPOLA
    Austin American-Statesman (Texas)

    Austin City Manager Marc Ott no longer plans to cut library hours to save money. But he said he does want some firetrucks to at times operate with fewer firefighters.

    Ott on Thursday announced those changes to the $20 million cost-cutting plan he unveiled earlier this month.

    He had proposed cutting library operations at every branch by 9.5 hours a week. But he said he reconsidered after talking with residents in small groups and at a town hall meeting and hearing how much they value libraries.

    "I cannot guarantee that we will not need to reduce hours as part of 2010 budget development if we see a continued downward trend in revenue this year," Ott told the City Council on Thursday.

    Austin's sales tax revenues, which make up a quarter of the $621 million budget, have been dipping as the economy has struggled.

    Under Ott's plan, the library director will hold open 10 vacant jobs and hire temporary employees if necessary, saving $80,000. About $285,000 would have been saved by cutting library hours.

    To save $200,000 , Fire Chief Rhoda Mae Kerr agreed to put in place a "flexible staffing plan." Instead of paying overtime to have four firefighters (the national standard) on a truck at all times, the department will have only three firefighters staff some firetrucks at various times.

    That change will cut 0.2 percent from the Fire Department's budget, the second-smallest percentage reduction among the 12 city departments in which Ott plans cuts.

    The department had only three firefighters on trucks until it began adding a fourth person to some trucks in 2003. Shift commanders will decide on a day-to-day basis which trucks in which areas most need four firefighters and which can operate effectively with three, spokeswoman Michelle DeCrane said.

    DeCrane said that under the plan, no stations will close, no firefighters will be laid off, and response times will remain under eight minutes.

    Council Member and former firefighter Mike Martinez and Stephen Truesdell , president of the Austin Firefighters Association, said three-person staffing will threaten the efficiency and safety of firefighters and residents, because state law requires that two firefighters be outside a burning building before two others can enter.

    "Waiting for another truck could take a few seconds or a few minutes, depending on the area and time of day," Truesdell said. "Mr. Ott is entirely changing the way we operate on an emergency scene, all just to save a minute fraction of the budget. " It's a striking contrast to have the manager say we can maintain library hours but have to decrease the staffing on firetrucks."

    Fire Battalion Chief Harry Evans said a three-firefigher unit can still enter a burning building if it's obvious that people inside need to be rescued. And in fires that don't require a rescue, other trucks would arrive quickly, he said.

    Martinez said the department can and should find other cuts that don't compromise day-to-day firefighting, such as trimming the salaries of executive-level fire officials.
    Ott unveiled a few other changes Thursday .

    He said he will consolidate two work units in the purchasing office to create a vacancy and save $86,000 . And he will use $80,000 for youth and parent support programs, including money to send 80 children to summer camp. He had proposed saving that money.

    Council Member Lee Leffingwell asked Ott to consider moving some social services programs into the city's Economic Growth Department, which operates on the monthly fees that Austin Energy customers pay. That change would help preserve important programs such as job training and take pressure off the city's day-to-day operating budget, Leffingwell said.

    Ott said he has begun an organizational review to look for inefficiencies in programs and services citywide. And he has asked finance staffers to assess city financial policies because, he said, Austin relies heavily on sales taxes, a volatile source of income.




    So...let's get this straight. We can't cut library fund's because small group's of people at the town hall meeting value libraries, and oh ya.....we need to send under privaledged children to summer camp, and have monies to support youth and parent support program's...whatever that is? Welfare?

    So when said people who value libraries houses and businesses are on on fire, are they gonna bitch and moan because the fire department took to long to get there, and when a truck has to come from a further station and can't rescue Fluffy?

    Sometimes some things just don't make sense.
    Last edited by AZFF25; 03-02-2009 at 06:03 PM.
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  2. #2
    Forum Member GTRider245's Avatar
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    This whole concept is completly messed up, but that is the only thing I can see anyone getting outraged about. It is a case of misplaced priorities.

    Austin going from 4 men to 3 on a few trucks is no huge tragedy. Plenty of departments don't have that many men to start with, and plenty more are facing much more drastic cuts.
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    I don't mind fire rolling over my head. I just don't like it rolling UNDER my a**.

  3. #3
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    Quote Originally Posted by GTRider245 View Post
    This whole concept is completly messed up, but that is the only thing I can see anyone getting outraged about. It is a case of misplaced priorities.

    Austin going from 4 men to 3 on a few trucks is no huge tragedy. Plenty of departments don't have that many men to start with, and plenty more are facing much more drastic cuts.
    It is this kind of mentality that really just kills the fire service.

    How on earth could we ever expect civilians and politicians to fight for our staffing when we ourselves make statements such as a 25% reduction in the staffing of a truck company being "no huge tragedy".

    We really are our own worst enemies sometimes.

    There are departments that ride with only ONE firefighter on duty. Are you suggesting that because they do it, that other cities should not worry about manpower reductions until they are down to ONE firefighter? Because that sure as hell it what it sounds like.

  4. #4
    Forum Member GTRider245's Avatar
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    I bet you have some awesome dreams at night. Firestation on every corner with a pump, truck and rescue all fully staffed. 30 people for a structure fire, 7 RIT teams just in case the first 6 go wrong. And everything works perfectly.

    Then you woke up. That is not reality.

    A fire department having to cut one man from a truck that is already staffed twice what most are while other departments are completly shutting down companies is not going to keep me awake at night.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Rescue101 View Post
    I don't mind fire rolling over my head. I just don't like it rolling UNDER my a**.

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    So...let's get this straight. We can't cut library fund's because small group's of people at the town hall meeting value libraries, and oh ya.....we need to send under privaledged children to summer camp, and have monies to support youth and parent support program's...whatever that is? Welfare?

    So when said people who value libraries houses and businesses are on on fire, are they gonna bitch and moan because the fire department took to long to get there, and when a truck has to come from a further station and can't rescue Fluffy?

    Sometimes some things just don't make sense.
    The Austin FD can always throw a book at a fire... not.

    Austin going from 4 men to 3 on a few trucks is no huge tragedy. Plenty of departments don't have that many men to start with, and plenty more are facing much more drastic cuts.
    What happens when they cut from 3 ffs to 2 on a rig.. then to 1?
    Last edited by CaptainGonzo; 03-02-2009 at 10:04 PM.
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  6. #6
    Forum Member ffpedro's Avatar
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    Good luck to the fellas in Austin. Fight this as it is the start of a very slippery slope. First it is one then two then a house then a couple trucks. I hope those avid readers have access to NIOSH reports, Fire journals, and plenty of chances to read about how this will burn them in the end.


    Ridiculous....utterly and completely ridiculous.

    Public Education programs are great. Having a fire department properly staffed is key to having public though.
    "The one man engine company...tough as hell cause we have to be."

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    I'm afraid that as staffing #'s go down, LODD #'s will go up!

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    Quote Originally Posted by GTRider245 View Post
    I bet you have some awesome dreams at night. Firestation on every corner with a pump, truck and rescue all fully staffed. 30 people for a structure fire, 7 RIT teams just in case the first 6 go wrong. And everything works perfectly.

    Then you woke up. That is not reality.

    A fire department having to cut one man from a truck that is already staffed twice what most are while other departments are completly shutting down companies is not going to keep me awake at night.
    Nobody asked you to stay awake at night over anything.

    But if you think that firefighters should willingly accept ANY cuts to what is already unsafe staffing in most places then you are part of the problem within the fire service.

    The mere suggestion that Austin firefighters should not even fight the loss of staffing because they happen to have more firefighters on their truck companies than another department is just plain ignorant. Are you familiar enough with the responsibilities of each member of an Austin truck company to come to your conclusion that one is expendible? Something tells me you are not.

    You have made your views on this quite clear. I guess it will be of concern to you when it is YOUR job or YOUR department, but short of that...why even care?

    When YOU wake up, you will realize that staffing cuts have a ripple effect. So...when the City of Austin cuts a firefighter from a four man truck, you think for one minute that other cities don't see that and say..."why can't we cut a firefighter from our 2 man truck"? Or "why do we even need the truck in the first place?"

    Again...I guess you wil worry about it when it is your problem. But for now...go back to sleep. Sorry to bother you with such trivial nonsense as the loss of firefighters on apparatus.

  9. #9
    Forum Member Bones42's Avatar
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    To save $200,000 , Fire Chief Rhoda Mae Kerr agreed to put in place a "flexible staffing plan."

    ...

    Fire Battalion Chief Harry Evans said a three-firefigher unit can still enter a burning building if it's obvious that people inside need to be rescued. And in fires that don't require a rescue, other trucks would arrive quickly, he said.
    Sounds like a few of Austin's Fire Service personnel are on board with this plan.
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    Forum Member nyckftbl's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bones42 View Post
    Sounds like a few of Austin's Fire Service personnel are on board with this plan.
    There are always a few who drank the Kool Aid.
    Proud East Coast Traditionalist.

  11. #11
    Forum Member GTRider245's Avatar
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    Jake, if you by any means think that I support this kind of action you are wrong. The only point I was trying to make is that in these times, cuts WILL happen. There is no getting around it.

    How much those cuts will affect your department will depend on the current staffing. I promise you places like Gary, IN were worse off losing WHOLE companies than Austin is losing one man every other truck.

    This is a fact of the fire service that we will now have to live with. Should we fight it? Of course. Will we win? Probably not. Might as well divert energy to thinking of ways to adapt rather than fighting the inevitable.

    You have said it yourself in numerous other threads. We as fireman are adaptive by nature. No matter how much they cut, we will find a way. You are right, we are our own worst enemy.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Rescue101 View Post
    I don't mind fire rolling over my head. I just don't like it rolling UNDER my a**.

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    MembersZone Subscriber CalvertFD168's Avatar
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    Thumbs down

    But he said he reconsidered after talking with residents in small groups and at a town hall meeting and hearing how much they value libraries.
    Lets see how much that library helps them at 2:30 in the morning when there home in on fire or when they are pinned in a roll over......
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bones42 View Post
    Sounds like a few of Austin's Fire Service personnel are on board with this plan.
    Sure sounds like that battalion chief is throwing his guys under the bus, its not like he's working directly for the city manager and has to echo everything he says. I wouldn't be to happy if I was a member of the department and saw that in the paper.

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    Forum Member AZFF25's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by catscratch View Post
    Sure sounds like that battalion chief is throwing his guys under the bus, its not like he's working directly for the city manager and has to echo everything he says. I wouldn't be to happy if I was a member of the department and saw that in the paper.

    Ahhhh.....you caught that too.
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    Quote Originally Posted by GTRider245 View Post
    Jake, if you by any means think that I support this kind of action you are wrong. The only point I was trying to make is that in these times, cuts WILL happen. There is no getting around it.

    How much those cuts will affect your department will depend on the current staffing. I promise you places like Gary, IN were worse off losing WHOLE companies than Austin is losing one man every other truck.

    This is a fact of the fire service that we will now have to live with. Should we fight it? Of course. Will we win? Probably not. Might as well divert energy to thinking of ways to adapt rather than fighting the inevitable.

    You have said it yourself in numerous other threads. We as fireman are adaptive by nature. No matter how much they cut, we will find a way. You are right, we are our own worst enemy.
    Someone is ALWAYS "worse off" in every facet of life. What kind of argument is that?

    If I lost my leg, should I not be upset about it because there are those who have lost both legs? Ridiculous.

    You can divert YOUR energy to "adapting" to doing it all with nothing. I will choose to fight for my livelyhood, as well as the livelyhood of my brothers.

    But by saying it is all "inevitable"...you have already lost the fight. I am just thankful you aren't in my corner.

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    the 4-1-4 Jasper 45's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bones42 View Post
    Sounds like a few of Austin's Fire Service personnel are on board with this plan.

    And you know what? This past budget process, as our mayor was cutting our fifth man and eliminating an engine, which was the culmination of 157 line positions, we had battalion chiefs who said the cuts would not affect service.

    The fact is that chiefs don't put out fires, firemen do. Chiefs do not stretch hose, force doors, or drag people out, firemen do. Chiefs typically also don't have union protection, so they are at-will employees, and an extension of administration, and must toe the line of the chief or mayor.
    Last edited by jasper45; 03-03-2009 at 06:57 AM.

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    Forum Member GTRider245's Avatar
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    Tom Hanks said it best in Saving Private Ryan. The gripes don't go down, they go up. So even if a chief had a problem with a policy or procedure, he shouldnt be voicing his opinion of the matter to line officers and firefighters.

    Thats the beauty of the chain of command.

    And Jake, we both have our opinions on this. And regardless of either, it will still continue to happen.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Rescue101 View Post
    I don't mind fire rolling over my head. I just don't like it rolling UNDER my a**.

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    Forum Member snowball's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bones42 View Post
    Sounds like a few of Austin's Fire Service personnel are on board with this plan.
    To save $200,000 , Fire Chief Rhoda Mae Kerr agreed to put in place a "flexible staffing plan."

    ...

    Fire Battalion Chief Harry Evans said a three-firefigher unit can still enter a burning building if it's obvious that people inside need to be rescued. And in fires that don't require a rescue, other trucks would arrive quickly, he said.
    Sounds to me like the BC is not in the Union and saying exactly what he was told to say. I'm sure it pained him to have to say that after being on board and fighting the city to add the fourth FF. IMHO
    IAFF

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    You cut from the top. The city leaders need to take pay cuts first. Best idea? Eliminate the City Manager position and make the mayor do his damned job.
    Logic and proportion have fallen sloppy dead.

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    Quote Originally Posted by GTRider245 View Post
    Tom Hanks said it best in Saving Private Ryan. The gripes don't go down, they go up. So even if a chief had a problem with a policy or procedure, he shouldnt be voicing his opinion of the matter to line officers and firefighters.

    Thats the beauty of the chain of command.
    I agree. His job is to tell his men the truth and defend them. It's also to tell the public the truth. He should do that, too. I reckon he won't be Chief for long after that, but it will possibly end the career of the idiot city manager.
    Logic and proportion have fallen sloppy dead.

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