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Firefighters President Disputes City Budget Projections

The president of the Columbus Fire Fighters Union says he doesn't believe the city will employ a record 1,555 firefighters by the end of 2007. That was the projection released earlier this week in the mayor's 2007 budget proposal.

At a city hall news conference Wednesday, Mayor Coleman highlighted Columbus's investment in public safety.

"The Division of Fire is adequately staffed at every station, Coleman said. "We are at a time when we're going to have more firefighters than we ever have."

But firefighters union president Jack Reall says that attrition will probably invalidate the mayor's projections.

"I doubt we would get up to 1555 which is what the graphic at the press conference said."

Reall says it's more likely that the city will have fewer firefighters than it did in 2004. He also disagrees that there is adequate staffing at each of the city's 34 fire stations.

"I don't think the person that calls 911 wants to know that the fire truck that's showing up is merely adequate in terms of staffing," Reall said. "I don't think it's adequate. I think we're at unsafe levels."

Reall also says the city practice of paying overtime rather than hiring more firefighters raises the likelihood of fatigue and injury.

"Our fire fighters are responding to 20, 25, 30 runs a day from their station," Reall said. "If you take that firefighter after their 24 hour shift and have them work another 12 hour shift the following day - or even another 24 hour shift - eventually the fatigue is going to set in."

The firefighters union, Real says, will lobby for additional staffing when the city council takes up the mayor's budget proposal.