MFD: Brownouts Gamble With Lives As Fires Burn In Memphis

(Memphis) With an increase in fires, the Memphis Fire Department says its ability to protect you is in jeopardy.

In some cases, they simply don’t have the manpower to get to a fire as fast as they could.

This, with even more fires expected next week as the temperature drops.

Because of budget cuts last year, Memphis Fire had to get rid of nearly 100 jobs through attrition.

They’ve also moved to the program called brownouts which temporarily puts a truck out of service because of manpower.

“We will brownout up to four ladder trucks in a given day to stay within the overtime budget guidelines,” said Memphis Fire Director Alvin Benson.

Benson says the brownouts are a gamble.

“You have to have X number of bodies to do a job. And if you don’t have the bodies the work becomes risky. And how much risk do we want to assume?” said Benson.

In the past week, Memphis has averaged at least a house fire a day, and heating because of the frigid temperature, is believed to be the cause.

“When you brownout there is an elevated risk,” said Benson.

That’s a risk the truck you need will be unavailable because of the brownout, and one will have to come from somewhere else.

The situation doesn’t look to get any better next week as temperatures continue to drop.

As the city looks to next year’s budget, council members are preparing for more cuts based on projections.

Monique Funzie thinks that’s ridiculous, “That would be very dangerous and tragic for us to continue losing lives when that can be prevented and they could get there on time by us paying for those services.”

Director Benson says the fire department is operating at bare bones and really can’t cut anymore without a very significant impact to your and firefighter safety.

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