In another round of budget cuts hurting local fire departments, this time in Brockton MA. In April the city threatened to layoff 20 firefighters in order to meet budget demands and the union was able to save the jobs by giving some financial concessions to free up money until the end of the fiscal year to keep the jobs. With the new fiscal year set to begin July 1st the city has informed the fire department that 15 jobs are back in front of the firing squad along with other city employees and 74 school teachers. Chief Kenneth Galligan isn’t as optimistic this time about the jobs being saved saying “The payroll will drop from 185 (people) to 170, the number of uniformed firefighters will go from 169 to 154.” This will be the fourth time fire department jobs are cut in Brockton due to budget issues. Over the last 3 city budgets 28 other firefighters have been cut. Galligan said Tower 1 on the East Side will be shut down if the layoffs happen. That will leave the city with just two ladder trucks. The impact on the saftey of residents has yet to be determined.
Twin brothers Kent and Brent Abernathy of the Geraldine Fire Department have managed to covercome their diablities to save people and property. Both brothers suffer from spastic paralegia which is a disease that progressively weakens the leg and hip muscles, making it difficult or, in some cases, impossible to walk or stand. Both brothers have been fighting it since they were in the 6th grade.
Spastic paraplegia is a neurological disorder. The nerves hold the leg muscles tense, preventing the individual from walking normally. Lengthening the tendons allowed the muscles to relax slightly and put the twins back flat on their feet. That surgery is the only form of treatment Brent and Kent ever received. Terry said the doctors informed them that lengthening the heel cords was really all they could do.
Firefighting is one of those things they were determined to try. Brent said he and his brother get their love of the job from their dad. Terry has been a member of the Tenbroeck Volunteer Fire Department for most of his sons’ lives. Brent and Kent grew up washing, waxing and working on fire trucks. When they were 16, Terry decided they were old enough to go on their first call. By the time they graduated high school, both had become members of their dad’s department.
Out of the 600+ firefighters that work in the Milwaukee County suburbs, only one is African-American, according to a Journal Sentinel survey. That lone African American firefighter was hired, in West Allis, just nine months ago. The survey was done after a suburban fire chief was suspended last month for using racial slurs. The results led some African- American leaders to demand that suburban departments do more to attract African-Americans to firefighting.
According to census figures show that nearly 12,000 African-Americans live in the 18 Milwaukee County suburbs. That accounts for about 3.3% of the total population while the 1 firefighter accounts for just 0.15% of the firefighters. Wauwatosa Fire Chief Dean Redman said suburban chiefs want their departments to better reflect the communities they serve. The survey results, Redman said, might be what it takes to spur suburban departments to action, perhaps by collaborating to promote firefighting among minority youths.
According to suburban fire chiefs a lack of qualified applicants, and not racism, is the major reason so few firefighters are black. It’s hard to say what the cause is fore sure but racisim coming fromt he top levels of the fire department probably does not do anything to encourage African Americans to apply for positions with the department. What needs to be addressed, say some African-American leaders, is why the number of applicants is so small. Attention to fire departments and race rose after South Milwaukee Fire Chief Jay Behling admitted using the N-word five times in front of employees at his firehouse in February. The 25 member firehouse in South Milwaukee is all white and officials there don’t remember a black firefighter ever having a position there.
In yet another budget cutting effort by a local government the city of Kokomo Indiana has decided to lay off 12 of their 112 firefighters. The primary job function of those being laid off was abulance service but they also served in firefighter efforts as well. The ambulance service is being outsourced to the local hospitals but the work they did assisting in firefighting will not be replaced. The move is expected to save the city $850,000 per year. Blake Granson whose brother was one of those included in the layoffs said “We don’t have enough firefighters to protect the citizens of Kokomo,” and “It’s just going to be a real ugly situation.” Granson went on to say “Somebody’s going to get hurt or killed, and then they’re going to say, ‘OK, we messed up,’” Granson said. “We need to bring these people back on.”
If the cost cutting ends up putting human lives in danger is it really worth it?