County Fire Dept. to reduce size of fire crews - FOX13 News, WHBQ FOX 13

County Fire Dept. to reduce size of fire crews

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (FOX13) -

A change in Shelby County Fire Crew procedure could affect your safety. Instead of four man engine companies responding to fires, only three firefighters will initially respond to the call. The County says it will save money in over time, but some say limited manpower is not the answer.

Meanwhile, the County is making plans to hire nine new recruits.

They say this new change is largely due to the loss of fire fees, after the South Cordova annexation.

"I hate that it's happening this way at all," says Co. Firefighter Union President Danny Young.

Young says he learned about the new protocol to reduce manpower on calls through the grapevine. 

"Every day we have nine engine companies that cover the entire county. Today, all 9 engine companies were running three men."

The Director of Public Works says they expect to save $100,000 each month. Three man crews are part of an administrative move to save an estimated $80,000 each month in firefighter overtime.

 "We're not going from four to three man crew all across the Fire Department. Presently every engine company on every shift has four man crew assigned to it when an individual is on leave, sick, injured on job than that engine company or one close to it will reduce down to a three man crew," says Director of Public Works Tom Needham.

But, under federal regulations, four fighters are required to allow firefighters to split up in pairs of two for safety.  The regulations make exceptions for life saving measures, but Young says the new protocol could mean delays in entering fire structures.

 "First engine will continue to respond quickly doing groundwork, doing things that need to be done before aggressive attack on fire. Unless (a) fourth man (arrives), (we) have to wait to enter dwelling," he says.

While the County says the fourth man will arrive by the time fires are ready for attack, Young questions the cost, "If we go in there, if we waive two in two out rule, if we go in there, if we go down, who's there to pull us out?"

The Fire Department says they receive 1,000 monthly calls, only 40 are structured fires. Under these new changes, they also added medical squads to help boost efficiency and save costs. They say they're new dispatch system helps better locate crews and the severity of the call, so squads are more readily informed of the problem.

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