Fire union: 81 percent are 3-man crews - Mid-South News, Weather, Traffic and Sports | FOX13

Fire union: 81 percent are 3-man crews

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NORTHAVEN, Tenn. (FOX13) -

Eighty-one percent of staffed firefighters at fire stations in Shelby County were three-man crews, according to the Shelby County Firefighter's Union.

The county recently moved from four-man crews to allow three-man crews to initially respond to a call, when a firefighter is sick or on leave.

MORE: Shelby Co Fire Dept to reduce side of fire crews

The move is expected to save more than $80,000 each month in overtime.

The firefighter's union and county administration agree no two-man crews responded to any fires.

However, the union says two-man crews have been staffed several times in the past couple of weeks. It's a problem which could lead to delayed response times.

Shelby County Firefighter Union President Danny Young says he's kept tabs on staffing, after the latest policy change to the fire department. Instead of four-man crews, the county recently moved to allow three-man crews to initially respond to a call, when firefighter's are sick or on leave.   

"We're slated to have four men," Young.

But Young says three-man crews are now the norm. Since the policy change two weeks ago, Young said the county staffs 81 percent three-man crews, nearly 15 percent four-man, and four percent two-man.

County administrators said they've never dispatched two-man crews to a fire, but do admit to an isolated incident which left a two-man staff.

Public Works Director Tom Needham says they staffed three firefighters at Station 67 in Northaven Thursday, but one firefighter needed to take a pumper to the shop, that left two firefighters back at the station to respond to fires.

While the station did not respond to any fires, Needham says the two men would've responded as the backup crew.   The primary station responding to the call, could be miles away from your home.

"Without a doubt, will be a delay," said Young.

According to federal requirements, fewer than four-man crews need to wait until a fourth firefighter arrives before attacking any fire. Life rescue is the only exception to the rule, which could bring heat to firefighters on limited manpower.

"They're putting us in jeopardy putting our lives, putting our lives at safety risk also," Young said.

Each station is tracked daily to keep track of staff changes, Young added.

Most of the roughly 1,000 calls each month are for medical calls, while only 40 are for structure fires, county administrators said.

Due to those numbers, the county has recently added medical squads to help boost efficiency and save costs.

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