The towering inferno, firefighting on a budget - FOX13 News, WHBQ FOX 13

The towering inferno, firefighting on a budget

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    Friday, October 4 2013 3:43 PM EDT2013-10-04 19:43:45 GMT
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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (FOX13) -

A new national standard for fighting fires has the Memphis Fire Fighters Association Local 1784 seeing red.
    
While Union Fire Director Tommy Malone says Memphis is up to standard, the union is bracing for the worst in the event of fire at a high rise downtown.

A building is technically considered a high rise if it has more than three stories.  Downtown Memphis has the highest concentration of high rises in the city, with tens of thousands of residents and workers.

"That's mass people," Malone said. "I'm very concerned about mass injuries or deaths in this city and this is not any bull."
    
Malone points to a new study released by the Urban Fire Forum. He says it sets a minimum standard that the city of Memphis can no longer meet because the ladder trucks have been moved out of the downtown fire stations.

"We have a new national standard and the normal response would be four engines and three trucks within the allotted eight minute time," says Malone. "It doesn't happen."

The department cut ladder trucks in 2012 in response to a budget cut by the city.  The trucks were moved north of downtown on Thomas and south of downtown on Mississippi Boulevard.  But Memphis Fire Director Alvin Benson says downtown is protected.

"It's not physically where the truck is located, it's can the truck respond to a particular location within the allotted time frame," says Benson.  "And we have to have enough resources to respond in that particular time frame."

Benson says there is no plan to move any trucks back to the downtown fire stations.
    
But Bensons says he is worried about "brown outs."
    
Sources tell FOX13 News the truck at the Mississippi station, the truck downtown depends on, is often out of service as a cost saving measure.

"It does increase the risk, its a risk I'd rather not take," says Benson.  "My position is that the department should not be cut further.  The resources we have we should keep.  Brown outs should be minimized and eventually eliminated."

But this budget season is expected to be more contentious that ever.
    
But Memphis Chief Administrative Officer George Little says the city will follow Director Benson's lead.

"Whether it's police or fire, those are our top priorities," says Little.  "If we need the assets in certain points of town we'll be sure they're there and we'll ask the council for the appropriate level of funding."

But Malone says the current cuts already have gone too far.  And he says he fears more are coming.

"We say enough is enough," says Malone.  "We're fixing to go on the offensive and show the citizens here exactly how they're being hoodwinked by this almighty dollar we're talking about."

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