Firefighters' union cautions budget cuts could hurt their abilit - Peoria-area News, Weather, Sports

Firefighters' union cautions budget cuts could hurt their ability to keep Peoria residents safe

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As the Peoria City Council gets ready to make final decision on the budget, local firefighters made a plea to protect some of their jobs and resources.

Peoria Firefighters Local 50 held a news conference Monday to read an open letter to city officials and citizens, alike, Monday. One of the options the Peoria City Council is considering involves decommissioning a fire engine at the station on Northmoor and leaving 11 vacant positions unfilled. But firefighters claim this will compromise public safety.

"The consequences associated with the shutting down of a fire machine are very severe and detrimental to not only our firefighters, but most importantly to the citizens and the visitors of our great city that we took an oath to serve," said Local 50 Union President Ryan Brady.

Brady says the Peoria Fire Department is doing more these days with less, including taking on new responsibilities such as mitigating hazardous materials, staffing and training an underwater dive/ice rescue and more. Plus, firefighters say they have the same level of staffing today as they did back in 1991, but more work. The union said the fire department responded to around 7,000 alarms a year in 1991, compared to more than 19,500 in 2016, a 176 percent increase.

Brady also says that the loss of a fire machine and those eleven positions that won't be filled will ultimately impact the services they can provide.

"Fire doubles in size with every minute that goes by. If you couple fire doubling in size with longer response times and less resources to respond, undoubtedly, you are putting citizens and firefighters at a greater risk," he said. 

Peoria Mayor Jim Ardis says they are running out of options when it comes to finding ways to close the budget deficit.

"The controversy and the discussion is how do we go about managing the work within the fire department and how the operations of the fire department impact the budget. All of the other departments have taken significant reductions in their areas," Ardis said.

The mayor added the city council will discuss the budget and possible cuts at Tuesday's council meeting, and says he expects to make a final decision by next week.

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