Fatal Fires Prompt Milwaukee to Consider Restoring Fire Company

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Milwaukee aldermen are considering a plan to use part of the city's emergency fund to restore a fire company closed due to budget cuts.

The move is prompted by a rash of recent fires, two of which were fatal. Also, two fires in the last three days happened in the neighborhood the former company served.

On Monday morning, a group of people jumped out of a burning house at North Bremen and East Wright streets.

Firefighters said four people were lucky enough to escape the fire without serious injury.

Rescue crews said they did arrive quickly, but they're becoming increasingly concerned that budget cuts, may cut into safety.

Alderman Bob Donovan said the public is paying the price in safety for a cut in funding to the fire department.

"The cuts to the Milwaukee Fire Department are a kin to playing Russian roulette with people's lives," Donovan said.

Donovan complained specifically about Ladder Company 10, which served the River West community. It was squeezed out in a budget crunch, and while no one can say it would have made a difference firefighters said the engine is missed.

"Obviously we would love to have all of our fire apparatus in every fire house every single day, budgetarily we just haven't been able to do that," Deputy Fire Chief Randall Zingler said.

Donovan is proposing drastic action like cutting into the cities emergency reserves to restore Ladder 10.

"There's $5 million there, now obviously that's for emergency purposes, but to me this is an emergency," Donovan said.

Donovan is asking the mayor and other elected officials to back him, but the mayor's office advised 12 News that Donovan has been a major player in budget cuts for 2010.

Those cuts include the so-called brown out legislation where by certain firefighting tools and/or equipment is pulled off line for nearly a month at a time to save money.

The mayor said that's what he's most concerned about right now.

"Right now, we're looking in the budget office to see what we can do to reduce the number of brown outs. Alderman Donovan had an amendment in the budget that increased the number of brown outs. I want to reduce to number of brown outs, so that's where putting our focus right now is to reduce the number of brown outs," Mayor Tom Barrett said.

The mayor said going into the contingency fund is not something he's interested in doing right now.

The mayor also said response times by firefighters are still very good, and in the case of the two fire fatalities this year response time was less than three minutes.


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