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Emergency Crews Concerned Budget Cuts Will Effect Response Time

(credit: KTVT/KTXA) Joel Thomas
Joel is an Emmy Award winning journalist with more than 15 year...
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FORT WORTH (CBSDFW.COM) - Budget cuts have emergency crews worried about how it will affect their ability to quickly respond to emergencies. In this case, the old adage of time is money has been flipped. Money is time.

The Fort Worth Fire Department will have to shave $3.5 million from its budget, mostly in job positions it needs to help ease overtime.

“It’s going to require a little more effort on our behalf and a little more time to get things done,” said Fort Worth Fire Chief Rudy Jackson.

The Fort Worth Fire Department estimates under the new budget fire response times would average a minute and 48 seconds longer. That means if someone has a fire or medical emergency, it may take nearly 2 minutes longer for firemen to arrive.

The budget would not only cut 36 job vacancies in the fire department, it would slash over time, too. Chief Jackson says he’ll be forced to limit the number of firemen at each station at any given time. That means if a fire truck goes on a call, a crew from another fire station would have cover for them if there was a second emergency.

“We will be moving companies constantly,” Chief Jackson said. “Because once one company goes out or an alarm assignment goes out which is four or five companies we will have to fill those gaps so we will be constantly on the move.”

And its that extra travel time in an emergency that worries some firefighters.

“All they talked about today was how much response times are going to be increased which is almost two minutes on average,” said Jim Tate, president of Fort Worth firefighters union. “Outside the loop in certain areas its going to be way more than that.”

The chief of police had a more calming message when he spoke to the city council Thursday.

“We’re okay,” Chief Jeff Halstead told the council during its budget workshop. “We can take a deep breath but we will have significant challenges ahead.”

Chief Halstead says he’s fine with the plan to cut 46 vacant positions. He’ll still have 40 vacant positions left he probably won’t be able to fill anyway.

“Having those 46 vacant police officers removed almost from a pre-funded police budget, I’m still going to have a challenge filling all the vacancies that sit on the book because its been a very, very demanding recruiting mission that we’ve been on for many years.”

Because of recruit wash out rates and the limited size of its old training facilities, the department is losing officers faster than it can graduate new ones. Still, the police officers association says it will fight to keep the 46 vacant positions in the budget.

“We are going to have contact with our council persons and try to convince them we think having a mandate to hire and fill these positions,” said Police Officers Association president Sgt. Steve Hall.

 

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