The student news site of Marquette University

Marquette Wire

The student news site of Marquette University

Marquette Wire

The student news site of Marquette University

Marquette Wire

Budget extinguishes campus fire engine

  • The fire house that responds to fires on campus will lose a fire truck and an estimated 15 jobs that go with it, if the current budget proposal is enacted
  • Capt. Dick Kaiser said response time will not be affected, but there still can be residual effects
  • No person will become unemployed as a result of the cuts, since there is already a Milwaukee firefighter shortage

A firehouse that serves Marquette will have one fewer fire truck for 2009 if budget cuts proceed as planned.

Under the current plan, the station located at 711 W. Wells St. will lose Engine 20 and the estimated 15 jobs that come with it, said Milwaukee Fire Department station Capt. Dick Kaiser.

Kaiser said the cuts were first proposed to be more extensive, but due to the efforts of Common Council members and Local 215 of the Milwaukee Professional Fire Fighters Association, the union that represents Milwaukee firefighters, the final proposal was less drastic than expected.

The proposal is to decommission Engine 20, one of three fire trucks housed at that station. The other two housed there are Ladder 2 and Engine 2. An engine provides the water and hose, while a ladder provides the ladder and all the tools—generators, lights, Jaws of Life and battering rams—vital to fighting a fire.

That is how the proposed cuts will shake out under the budget approved by the Common Council, but Kaiser said changes could still happen.

"This budgetary process has been changed numerous times," he said.

Although jobs will be cut under this plan, no firefighter will become jobless because of it.

"Right now we have 70 to 90 openings. So when we lose people, nobody packs up their lunch pail and goes home. Nobody will lose their job," he said.

Kaiser said people will be shuffled around to different fire houses. The only thing that will be out of service is the truck itself.

Response time will not be immediately affected, because the number of personnel on hand doesn't affect the time it takes to get to a fire. But there are residual effects on response and service.

Kaiser said a normal structure fire requires three ladders, three engines and a paramedic unit. If those units are dispatched while a fire at Marquette occurs simultaneously, the response time will be longer because the firefighters will come from a station farther away since trucks that normally respond are already spoken for.

"The critical part of any fire is the first two to five minutes," he said. "To get a fire totally under control could take hours. But those first few minutes is where lives are saved."

"You need people to do it properly," Kaiser said.

Bobbie Webber, president of Local 215 of the Milwaukee Professional Fire Fighters Association, said service might take a hit as a result of the cuts.

"These kinds of reductions are going to impact our ability to give the level of service and safety to our members," Webber said. "When you take one body off that ladder company we eliminate the ability to affect that rescue immediately."

Firefighters are still wary that, even after these cuts come and go, their jobs are still not safe, Kaiser said.

"The firefighters' morale is down because we don't feel this is the end," he said.

Common Council President Willie Hines Jr. said the council members were able to curtail the cuts included in the budget submitted to them by Mayor Tom Barrett.

"During public listening sessions, we heard from residents who made it clear they want strong public safety and to keep their library services," Hines said. "And the Council managed to restore firefighters, police officers and libraries without raising taxes or the solid waste fee to the level originally proposed by the mayor."

Kaiser said money is the reason behind the cuts.

The economy is in poor shape, and there isn't a tax base that can support all of the city's programs, so it's natural for the mayor to have to cut programs, Kaiser said. But when it comes to public safety, the implications change.

"The difference is, cutting police and firefighters directly affects the public's safety," he said.

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