A fire engine in Covington is shut down as of Monday morning.
According to Covington Professional Firefighters - IAFF Local 38, the staffing level of 30 shift firefighters per shift will be further reduced to 27 firefighters, which is the new policy issued by Fire Chief Charles E. Norris.
A Memorandum of Understanding on Minimum Manning between the City of Covington and Covington Professional Firefighters IAFF Local 38 was signed less than a year ago in November, 2010 and agreed upon between Union leaders, City Manager Larry Klein and Mayor Denny Bowman. Local 38 President Chris Black said the Minimum Manning agreement was set at a level so low that the union never thought it would be blatantly violated.
"We run most of our fire trucks with three, but sometimes as few as two firefighters—a number dangerously low to begin with—and now the city wants to take us below even that," President Black said. "Our minimum manning should be set at 40, but to ease the overtime burden on the city we agreed with 30. Now they are breaking that agreement and telling us they'll run with as few as they want to."
The new reduced staffing policy will remove from service Pumper One, located at fire headquarters at Scott and Robbins Streets.
"Pumper One, just last Friday was an integral part of the rescue of an elderly female from a burning home on the city's eastside," Black commented. "And a large fire in Kenton Hills over the weekend would have been worse if Pumper One or Pumper Two were not staffed, possibly spreading to more houses in that neighborhood.
City Manager Larry Klein says shutting down Engine One means only losing one firetruck. He says the reduction in staffing will save the city $600,000 annually.
"Because of our budget crisis, our commission has decided that we need to reduce that number to limit our overtime and balance our budget," said Klein.