About 15 off-duty Memphis firefighters gathered outside Fire Station 25 on Willow this morning to protest possible cuts in equipment, one of several items in the city budget proposal.
Most held bright red signs reading, "Your rescue truck is closing! You and your family are in danger!" If the city approves Memphis Fire Director Alvin Benson's proposed budget cuts, the department could lose 111 jobs, 7 fire engines, 6 ladder trucks, and one rescue truck over the next three years. No ambulance cuts are proposed.
According to Memphis Fire Fighters Association president Larry Anthony, the cuts would bring the department back to 1972 staffing and equipment levels. Yet the city has annexed Cordova, Hickory Hill, Southwind, and Wolfchase since that time, and Anthony maintains that current staffing and equipment levels are necessary to ensure public safety.
In 2003, firefighters Trent Kirk and Charles Zachary died while fighting a Family Dollar store fire on Watkins Street. After the incident, the fire department director requested the city add two additional rescue trucks to its fleet of two. Only one was added, and now the city council is considering removing that extra truck from operation.
"These cuts will be devastating sooner or later," Anthony said. "Someone will be hurt."
The city council will vote on budget cuts next Tuesday.