MEMPHIS, Tenn. – It looks like the red rash is clearing up. Sunday, 60 firefighters were off the job, that’s down from Saturday’s staggering count of 80.
Memphis Fire officials say only ten of the 60 called in sick for just Sunday.
As many as 50 of the firefighters who didn’t show up for work, are on long-term sick leave.
Even though the number of sick firefighters is going down, WREG discovered another potential problem for the already strained department.
This week, 30 Memphis firefighters will call out for good, because they are retiring.
The retirements are scheduled, they happen on the 15th of the month at the end of every quarter.
But now, many are questioning if this new class of retirees, puts firefighters under even more strain.
“Where is the protection coming from? I have friends who are police officers and firefighters; they are working around the clock right now,” said Memphian Al Yalbrough.
Memphian Barbara Weeks fears the permanent loss off more than two dozen firefighters at once, could put her in harm’s way, “It’s scary to know that something can happen and it may take a longer time for them to come and save everything that I’ve worked for.”
Memphis Fire Association President Thomas Malone said Memphis firefighters will cover shifts to keep families protected.
Malone says city leaders did not do their part to stop this strain from happening, “We have not done a good job of preparing. We have not had a plan. We haven’t had a recruit class in a couple years.”
When many people retire, you usually find them celebrating.
Malone says this week, new fire department retirees are calculating, “You got a lot of people saying, ‘Oh my God, I don’t know if I can even afford to retire. I’ve got to pay 100% of my insurance.”
Downtowner Al Yalbrough said it’s time for city leaders to re-calculate.
“I don’t understand why we can’t find the money. We’re wasting plenty of money. The Pyramid, that was a waste of money. We have Beale Street Landing, I don’t know if that’s going to work out or not. We have to get priorities right in the city of Memphis,” said Yalbrough.
There are two separate budgets which fund building projects and pensions.
Malone said some of the retirees may be part of the firefighters on long-term sick leave.
There are 21 Memphis police officers scheduled to retire this month.