Memphis Fire Department battling low staffing levels - FOX13 News, WHBQ FOX 13

Memphis Fire Department battling low staffing levels

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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) - The Memphis Fire Department battles injuries on the job on a daily basis, and these days they are doing it with what they say is a severely understaffed department. That means more fire crews out of service, which everyone says is a risky strategy.

Fire Director Alvin Benson feels like he's been having the same budget and recruiting conversations with the city for years. However, he says if the situation continues, soon they will not be able to provide the level of service Memphis needs.

MORE: Bare bones budget approved for Memphis Fire

As of Friday, MFD is down 74 firefighters, and the numbers keep falling, anywhere from three to seven a month. Director Benson is hoping city council approves a recruiting class budget in June.

"It's a little like Groundhog Day, it really is," the city's fire director said. "We've been having budget discussions for years."

They're also dealing with current staffing level issues such as sick leave, retirement and resignation; all which lead to an even smaller staff which leads to brownouts, that means taking some fire truck crews out of service to avoid overtime costs. Everyone agrees that's a risk strategy to those in need.

“They are saying because people are off sick, that's not the complete reason, it does play a part, but the major reason is we go in everyday understaffed," said Tommy Malone, President of Memphis Fire Fighters Association Local 1784.

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Earlier this week, some city council members questioned whether current firefighters were using too many sick days, which leads to more brownouts. Director  Benson says he's not naive to the fact that misuse of sick days might be happening. However, he says what really matters here is the bigger picture; a new class needs to be hired and trained ASAP.

"Were at that point, can’t go beyond the level of service we need to provide," he said. "We've hit the floor. This needs to stop at this point."

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