Plan for smaller fire department vehicles tabled Tuesday - WMC Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

Plan for smaller fire department vehicles tabled Tuesday

By Kontji Anthony - bio | email

MEMPHIS, TN (WMC-TV) - An attempt to cut costs inside the Memphis Fire Department sparked a battle Tuesday between the department's administration and firefighters.

At a Memphis City Council meeting, Fire Director Alvin Benson tabled a plan to save money on his fire fleet. Benson wants to use smaller SUV trucks for non-fire calls instead of larger vehicles.

"Currently, we respond to those calls in big trucks, big apparatus," Benson said. "Not very efficient. Not very good gas mileage."

Benson proposed buying eight Alternative Response Vehicles to replace fire trucks for medical calls. But fire fighters argue the big trucks have all-hazards response, and they don't want someone in an emergency to wait twice as long for response, if they arrive without the proper equipment.

Councilman Bill Boyd is mediating the situation.

"I will be meeting with both sides and try to negotiate an agreement and come to the council in two weeks," Boyd said.

The fire department says out of more than 365,000 calls in three years, 79.2 percent were medical. In addition to saving $17,000 per year using alternative vehicles, officials believe they can also save even more money by increasing the life of the big trucks.

But fire fighters say the cost of savings could be people's lives.

"We agreed to delay it for at least another two weeks and continue our discussions," Benson said.

Boyd, meanwhile, offered a solution.

"I suggested that they do a full 12-month test of the new vehicles, whatever we end up with.  It would be a truer test," he said.

Off the record, sources in City Hall said fire fighters have fears the smaller vehicles may mean job cuts.  But Benson says the fire department will need the same number of fire fighters, no matter the size of their vehicle.

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