DRASTIC CUTS COMING TO ELYRIA FIRE
“The way we fight fires will have to change – the statement I made to one of the guys is that the most important thing we can ask of the citizens right now is to install smoke detectors and make sure they are working.” Union President Dean MarksElyria – Mayor Bill Grace presented his “State of the City” address today and the numbers were sobering and staggering. Elyria Firefighter’s Union President Dean Marks said he was blindsided by the numbers he heard today. “The numbers we have been given before were from Council meetings and they were cuts of $600,000 and now today we were told that they will be cutting $900,000 from the Fire Department budget.” Marks said that the Firefighters was one of the only Unions to sit with the Mayor and try to work through options to stave off the cuts and layoffs to “properly protect the city.”
It is projected that the cuts will lower the minimum manpower from 14 to 11 guys per shift and potentially closes another Station. “With this new policy there are going to be massive amounts of layoffs, I’ve heard upward of 20 to 25 guys to make that number work. I don’t have concrete numbers, but when we were at the $600,000 cut from the budget it was 10 to 12 guys – now you’re talking an additional $300,000, that’s an astronomical amount. So essentially what you are going to do now is you won’t have a lot of guys left on a shift.”
As it stands now, the Elyria Fire Department has 75 on staff. That number includes one secretary and the current Fire Chief who is set to retire in March and 5 or 6 guys that Marks said is on extended sick leave and two are serving in the Military.
Marks said there will be many changes in the Department if these cuts become a reality he said the most noticeable change that people will see is the decrease in response times to certain areas of the city. “The way we fight fires will have to change – the statement I made to one of the guys is that the most important thing we can ask of the citizens right now is to install smoke detectors and make sure they are working. Here’s why I say that; essentially you are only sending 9 guys to a fire that can effectively work. Our tactics here at the Elyria Fire Department are going to have to change unbelievably. We can no longer aggressively fight fires like we’re accustomed to and try to save property.”
Marks said that the number one priority has always been and will remain to be saving lives. “If there is a life hazard our guys are still going to go in – they know they won’t have the backing behind them and help if something were to go wrong inside. These guys are professionals and they still stand today on that line and they’re going to go in and unfortunately I think that is what bothers the spouses the most is that they know that’s still going to be the case. But aside from there actually being a rescue we’ll probably have to sit back and wait for our off duty guys or a second Engine Company to arrive before we effectively start an interior attack. You’re going to see a lot of fires that could have been stopped – let’s say you have 4 stations / 17 guys and a small fire that are probably going to balloon into some pretty good house fires if not total losses.”
Another service that is set to be affected is the EMS first responding. “Each Firefighter is certified at least as an Emergency Medical Technician, there are also about a dozen guys who are certified as Paramedics. Every Rig has an Automatic Defibrillator; and we can intubate at this time in the City of Elyria – so we are First Responders to all life threatening emergencies in the City of Elyria. I am not certain but I have heard if the number hits 11 that the First Responding might cease. We may no longer run EMS in the city because of the cutbacks.”
Marks said that the idea of not running EMS in the city bothers him because he said he got into this line of work to help save lives. “I don’t care if it is pulling someone out of a fire, cutting a kid out of a car or it’s the 50 year old man who was in Full Arrest and we bring him back – I don’t care, to me it’s all apart of my job and I love doing it. Unfortunately we’re to a point now to where we just can’t do it all.”
This May will mark 15 years on the Department for Marks, by far he said this is the worst he has ever seen it. “Our state association Secretary Treasurer, Mark Horton, made a statement earlier today that if we run this city with 11 Firefighters on a shift, we will be one of the lowest, if not the lowest, protected cities, of its size, in the State of Ohio. Unfortunately I don’t see this changing anytime soon, if you look at the Mayor’s plan we are at the top of the list when it comes to cutbacks – now if he passes a tax levy and money starts coming in we’re at the bottom of the rung when it comes to getting additional funds. So no, I don’t see this administration allowing us to get back to where we need to be to be provide the most effective service to the people of Elyria.”
In reaction to the interview we had with Mayor Grace, where the Mayor suggested that the Elyria Fire Department, during negotiations continually asked for more and more and when they got more they would ask for even more – Marks said that is simply not true. “We have never asked the city or this administration for hand outs, we have only asked for what we needed to provide the best protection for the City. We have only ever asked for a fair shake.”
Marks also wanted to clear up one other point and that’s about the current campaign to recall the Mayor. “It has been suggested by this Mayor that we are behind this and that is simply not true. We do not support the recall and I have said in meetings to our members that as a Union we do not in anyway support the recall. There might be Firefighters or family members who have signed the petition, but none of the members have worked with the group. There is a retired Firefighter heading up the campaign but no current Firefighters are a part of that group. That is not our job, our job is to provide safety for the citizens of Elyria and that is what we will continue to do.”
Dean Marks also said that if any citizen would like to speak with him directly about the current situation he welcomes the opportunity. You can reach him by calling the Fire Station at 440.323.4815.
As of today the changes presented are not final – the final, precise numbers are expected by the end of this month – perhaps by the end of the week. Full time employees are expecting their two-week notice on Friday, February 27th.