Firefighters criticize county's plan for cuts

Firefighters criticize county's plan for cuts

(WMC-TV) - Shelby County firefighters are criticizing the county's plans to cut back the number of men assigned to each truck at one time.

County leaders claim a truck will only have three firefighters when someone is sick or on vacation.

But the firefighters union says that is not true.

"We have nine engine companies in our county, all nine of them are running 3 man engine companies today," said Shelby County Firefighters Association President Danny Young.

Young says Shelby County's recent attempt to slash overtime is a violation of federal regulations.

"My phone started blowing up as our union president about what's all going on. There has been nothing officially written," said Young.

Administrators say in an effort to balance the budget, four man units will be reduced to three in instances where firefighters call-in sick or take vacation.

"We're doing rescheduling in a way that it will not affect the safety of personnel nor the general public," said Tom Needham, Shelby County Public Works director.

An OSHA policy dubbed two-in/two-out requires that two firefighters be on standby for rescue whenever two are inside any structure.

To comply with policy, administrators say smaller trucks called MED squads will assists.

"But if a med squad is out on a call somewhere, they have to wait til a 3 man engine company gets there," said Young.

And Young says if a unit has to wait on another company, they cannot go inside your house to fight a fire, with one exception.

"If someone's entrapped, we will risk a life to save a life," he said.

Young calls the administration's strategy a catch 22.

"If we go down at that point, who is going to go in and get us out if we don't have the two-in/two-out?" asked Young.

In this economy, Young says he realizes the need for cuts but says he wants county leaders to reevaluate what part of the budget goes up in flames.

"We understand that there are curves that need to be made but I don't know of those curves need to be made somewhere else but again we're very appreciative to have our jobs," said Young.

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