Across the country, leaders in government are forced to make tough decisions about funding for public services. There is only so much money to go around. Unfortunately, many government bodies seem all too comfortable slashing the budgets of their firefighters and first-responders before cutting services elsewhere. This trend of first-responder and firefighter budget cuts by local governments is short-sighted and dangerous.
As populations continue to grow in cities across the United States, it is more important than ever that firefighters and EMS professionals have the proper funding they require to protect the public and themselves. Just look at these four examples of cities whose leaders have seen fit to cut funding to their fire departments.
22 firefighters quit South Tucson, AZ Fire Department amid personnel cuts
Earlier this year, 22 firefighters from the South Tucson Fire Department quit their jobs after the city council voted to slash funding for the department in its annual budget. Among those who quit the department was former South Tucson Fire Captain Rick Raimondi. He explained that his reason for leaving was due to the personnel cuts that would limit the number of firefighters per engine to three, rather than the national average of four. In an interview with KGUN-9 Tucson, Raimondi said that the cuts are, “…unsafe and unacceptable.” In his professional opinion, operating an engine with only three firefighters would result in one of two scenarios: “You’re either going to put yourself in great danger by performing a rescue, or you’re going to lose lives – citizen lives.” The firefighter budget cuts came as the city of South Tucson was forced to confront a $624,000 budget deficit. However, it remains unclear why it was the fire department budget that had to be gutted to make up for, as KGUN reports, “unpaid bills.”
Milwaukee city leaders shut down 6 fire stations, cut 75 firefighter jobs
In a particularly glaring example of fire department budget slashing, the city of Milwaukee passed a $1.53 billion-dollar budget that cut 75 firefighter jobs and six fire stations around the city. This dramatic cut in public safety funding was met with outrage from firefighters across the state of Wisconsin. The Milwaukee Professional Fire Fighters Local 215 called out Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett in response to the budget, calling the cuts “operationally destructive”. In a Facebook post from October 2017, the union stated the following:
“The proposed budget by Mayor Tom Barrett for 2018 compromises the citizens of the City of Milwaukee significantly. The reallocation of resources may make sense when viewed after a computer spits it out but ultimately, in real time, the constituency will suffer.”
It remains unclear why the Milwaukee Fire Department was forced to face such abrupt and dramatic cuts, even as the city council approved a massive $1.53 billion-dollar 2018 budget. Worse still, Milwaukee Fire Chief Mark Rohlfing recently proposed more cuts to fire service in the upcoming 2019 budget which has left public safety personnel in Milwaukee uneasy about further department gutting.