Debate On Whether Fire Equipment Removal is Creating Delayed Response Times
(Memphis) The Memphis Firefighters Association wrote a letter to Mayor A C Wharton, voicing concerns of delays in response times since the realignment of equipment on July 1st.
According to plans to save on costs, Fire Director Alvin Benson removed four ladder trucks and one rescue truck off the streets, and redistributed some remaining equipment.
The Memphis Firefighters Association’s president, Larry Anthony, said delays are already taking effect.
“These things are going to happen. It’s just a matter of time before they go deadly,” Anthony said.
But Director Benson disagrees. “It hasn’t happened. We’re 16 days into this realignment, and with 16 days now, the response time has been very good.”
Specifically, Anthony in his letter cites a fire at 617 High Point Terrace on June 6th.
According to the incident’s run ticket, the first pumper truck arrived on scene within four minutes. A second one arrived a minute later.
But in addition to trucks with water, ladder trucks are often called.
The particular ladder truck in the area was on a medical call however, and the crew was using a car called an ARV, another recent change in equipment.
So instead, two other ladder trucks were called, arriving within nine and 11 minutes of the initial fire call.
“If they had been in a truck instead of the ARV, they could have responded. They were actually returning to quarters when this fire came in,” Anthony said.
Records show the timing was very close, but that the crew was actually still on the medical call when the fire started. By the time the crew finished their medical call and drove over to the fire, they would have arrived just after the other two ladder trucks.
Director Benson said, “I think this demonstrates the dishonesty with the union.”
Still, with the first ladder company unavailable, the second and third choice ladder trucks had to be called. Had this fire happened in July instead of June, one of the two ladder trucks, Truck 12, would have been out of service according to the realignment plan.
The idea of reaching farther and farther for available trucks concerns Mike Williams, a neighbor of the fire victims at High Point Terrace.
“A ladder truck has to come from two miles down the road, and if they need more than one, it’s going to be another distance they have to drive from. Taking away from other parts of the city,” Williams said.
But Williams does not believe getting ladder trucks faster to High Point Terrace would have helped the situation.
One woman on the second floor was trapped, with flames coming out the front door.
“She would have died in the fire, if me and two other guys hadn’t went around back, grabbed a mattress real quick and told her to jump,” he said.
The woman’s brother-in-law, Harry Paisley, said, “The only scenario that would have been better would have been if we had a ladder here and actually could have got her out. That would have been a little faster.”
But Williams said a ladder truck would not have fit in the back alley way of the apartments anyway, and that was her only way out.
Both men feel the fire department responded quickly and effectively.
While they feel the change in equipment would not have changed the outcome of their rescue, they do wonder about how it will have a ripple effect on taller apartments or commercial buildings.
Director Benson said there is no concern for putting safety at risk. He also said it is too soon to compare average response times, since the equipment change happened only 16 days ago.
News Channel 3 will follow up in the coming months.