The Richmond Register

Local News

July 6, 2013

Army depot to furlough firefighters despite safety concerns

County fire chief, Congressman say community could be at risk

(Continued)

RICHMOND —

Cox is concerned the depot firefighter furloughs could affect the safety of Madison County residents.

“Especially if it comes down to a major incident, it would really concern me,” Cox said. “We depend on them.”

 

Firefighter union supports furlough exemption

Blue Grass Army Depot firefighters are represented by International Association of Fire Fighters Local 291. IAFF Regional Vice President Jim Johnson has been providing advice and guidance to the personnel in their fight to get a furlough exemption, but the union or its local representatives have not been directly involved in negotiations with depot leadership, he said.

Johnson said the reduced staffing level is not just dangerous for the community but also for the firefighters. Typically, when fighting a fire or other type of incident, firefighters act offensively. However, when manpower drops below minimal levels, they must switch to a defensive strategy.

“It puts (the firefighters) in a quandary,” Johnson said. “They want to put out fires, but even when they don’t have the manpower, they’ll still try to put it out anyway. That’s when they get hurt.”

The federal standard of having 13 firefighters per shift is based on a what is needed to contain a fire in a large home, Johnson said.

“Obviously at the Army depot, we have larger structures than a 2,000-square-foot residential structure,” Johnson said.

The Navy and Marines have exempted their first responders from furlough, but the Army “has been hit or miss,” the union chief said.

“It’s basically coming down to the discretion of the base commander,” Johnson said.

Johnson agreed that the depot and community are being put at risk, especially with the closure of Richmond Fire Station 5 and the low staffing levels at the nearby county fire station.

“There isn’t any resources out there to rely on for a catastrophic event,” Johnson said.

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