Seven city fire companies ceased operations yesterday as part of Mayor Nutter’s budget-cutting plan, but not without rancor, as the head of the firefighters’ union claimed that “people will die” because of the closures.
The city expects to save $10.5 million a year by eliminating 148 unfilled positions without layoffs.
Local 22 of the International Association of Fire Fighters claims that the Fire Department’s internal study leading to the closings was flawed and that the mayor is being given bad information by his own people.
“He’s getting sold a bad bill of goods from the fire commissioner, that this plan is safe,” union president Brian McBride said, predicting that response times will increase to dangerous levels, particularly in bad weather. “What Mayor Nutter doesn’t realize is that he put the lives of firefighters and the citizens they serve in jeopardy. And there will be blood on his hands when people die from this, and people will die from this.”
In an interview, Nutter said he has “tremendous respect” for McBride and city firefighters, and reiterated his position that safety will not be compromised.
“The plan that the fire commissioner and his command staff put together ensures that the citizens of Philadelphia will continue to receive the same level of performance that they deserve, and our firefighters need,” he said.
The union tried to block the closures with a lawsuit in December. Both Common Pleas and Commonwealth Courts ruled against the union last week, and its appeal is before the state Supreme Court.
“Now, five different stations are without the ability to put out a fire, because there are no engines, no water,” McBride said. “They might as well be libraries without books.”