Union: Latest Fire Department Cuts Will Have 'Detrimental Consequences'

Sep 4, 2020

The president of the Peoria Firefighter's Union said the multiple rounds of cuts to the fire department in recent years are putting the city at risk.

Ryan Brady is head of Peoria Firefighters Local 50.

"If public safety is a priority for the elected officials within the city, and their No. 2 objective is a safe Peoria, how in the world do people think people are going to want to come here, and live here, and build houses here, and start families here, when you don't feel safe in your own neighborhood?" Brady said. "This constant reduction to the fire department is eventually going to have some detrimental consequences."

The Peoria City Council voted Tuesday to cut 22 firefighter positions--many of which already were vacated --and two engine companies. Brady said the firefighter's union was "shocked" by that decision, as it previously had been told there would only be one engine decommissioned, not two.

Brady said those decommissionings will further increase response times for the Peoria Fire Department that is now considerably more lean than the fire departments of cities of a comparable size like Springfield, Naperville, and Aurora.

"We run more fires than they do. We respond to more alarms than they do. But yet, their staffing levels are higher than ours. And it doesn't make sense," he said. "The math that we're trying to figure out doesn't add up."

The council voted to decommission Engine 20, which serves far North Peoria, as well as Engine 4 on the South Side. Brady said that's in addition to more than 20 layoffs and the decommissioning of Rescues 1 and 2 last year.

On Tuesday, the city council will consider freezing capital projects for the remainder of the year; a police and fire protection tax also is on the agenda.

That includes delaying construction of a new firehouse on Western this year. That's fine by Brady, provided the money is instead used to keep a fire engine online.

"Shuttering the new firehouse until the state grant money becomes available seems like a no-brainer for us," he said. "Because if the funds aren't there, the funds aren't there, so why not give that capital money dedicated to keeping the fire engine services, which is what the city needs to have, as opposed to a new firehouse down there."

Brady said with construction season winding down, it makes sense to hold off on construction of the new South Side firehouse, for now.

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