The Richmond Fire Department is temporarily shutting down companies. Now, some people are asking if the limited man power is enough, especially when call volume typically goes up in the next few months.
The practice is known as "browning out" a company. It basically means officials are taking certain crews out of service, and according to some, leaving areas of the city understaffed. It started just this past weekend and is expected to continue on and off through the end of the year.
Like many challenges we've reported with the fire department lately, this is a money issue.
Sources tell NBC12 at certain times, there are not enough regularly-staffed firefighters for all of the positions throughout the city. At this point in the year, the fire department has used a large chunk of its overtime budget. So instead of paying someone OT to fill the crew slot, officials temporarily shut down companies.
"When we brown out a company, that means they go out of service, and those personnel are distributed throughout the city wherever they're needed," explains Keith Andes with the Richmond firefighters' union.
NBC12 learned a company at Station 22, along with Quint 13, which are both on the south side, were browned out Saturday, and Sunday a group at Station 10 was out of service.
This is something the fire department has been through before. Still, Andes believes it affects safety for firefighters and department response times, thus how much damage a blaze will do to your house.
"We try to be there within three to four minutes threshold. For any longer, you've seen the tapes when they start a fire into a room over the minutes what it becomes," he asserted.
We brought the concerns directly to Richmond Fire Chief Robert Creecy, who says he has to balance risk and available resources. He offers Richmonders an assurance.
"It's no different if that company were out of service for training or out of service on another emergency call," he maintained. "Then we would call additional companies from the next closest stations. So the same numbers are responding - they may not just be responding from the same locations."
Creecy expects this issue to get better in the beginning of next year. The current recruit class is set to graduate by Christmas and that should alleviate the staffing concerns.
When other localities have this issue, they often brown out entire stations. It is important to note, Richmond Fire is not shutting down stations, but companies within firehouses.
Tuesday, December 10 2013 11:36 PM EST2013-12-11 04:36:40 GMT
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