The cost of brownouts

CINCINNATI, OH (FOX19) - The Cincinnati Firefighters Union says that for every 30 to 60 seconds that goes by, a fire doubles in size.

Those are seconds wasted when brownouts force fire companies from farther away to respond to emergencies. As the seconds mount up, so does the cost to repair the damage.

Repairs are still being made to a home on Budmar Avenue in College Hill after officials say a fire caused $25,000 in damage last fall. It is damage Matt Alter, President of Cincinnati Firefighters Union, says may have been prevented if not for brownouts.

"There was a delay in getting the first engine on scene. The fire company that normally responds up there was on another call for service. The backup company was browned out that day. A company from farther away down Spring Grove Avenue had to respond to that fire. It took 11 minutes to get that first fire engine on scene," says Alter. "Fortunately, with that case, there was nobody hurt but property is damaged and those are things that people work hard for and sometimes a photo album is just as important as anything else."

According to the Cincinnati Fire Department, response times since 2009 when the brownouts began have steadily increased.

Right now, the response times are below the national average. Cincinnati does not even meet the minimum response time required by the National Protection Agency because of the brownouts. It's a problem Alter says could eventually cost lives.

"It's a gamble. You don't know when the next emergency is going to happen. You don't know where it's at," says Alter.

Alter adds during brownouts, firefighters are forced to work shifts at different companies wherever they are needed. The problem is these firefighters may not be as familiar with those areas. It is just another delay he hopes will end with these brownouts.

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