Firefighter layoffs possible after two fatal Middletown fires

MIDDLETOWN, OH (FOX19) - Two deadly fires in just two weeks and now local fire officials are concerned it could get even worse.

Fire officials in Middletown continue to look for a cause in a fire that killed one woman yesterday in the 2500 block of El Camino Drive. That victim, 50-year-old Sheri Slone.

Fire officials say they're set to lose 15 firefighters later this summer because of layoffs.

"These fatal fires bring it even more into perspective and just how vital it is to have the right number of firefighters," said Chris Klug, Middletown Firefighters Union president.

Klug says they have a chance to apply for a FEMA Safer Grant that would pay to keep all 15 firefighters, but he says the city is not interested in applying.

"The city manager claims that there's too many strings attached when really the only string that's attached to a Safer Grant is you can't layoff during that time span in which you have the grant," said Klug.

A recent audit of the fire department found that the average response time in 2001 was four minutes. Just last year, it jumped to five minutes and 10 seconds. Klug says it's not just fire response, it's medical emergencies too.

"Heart attacks, strokes, someone not breathing. Time is of the essence and if we don't have adequate personnel then these people are sitting here waiting for this help," said Klug.

Klug says the city faced a similar situation in 2012 when six firefighters would have lost their jobs, but the city applied for the FEMA Safer Grant, saving all the positions. Klug says he understands the city is going through some tough times with their budget, but public safety can't be sacrificed.

"To not even be given the opportunity I think is not the most sound, smartest decision," said Klug.

Klug says they're going to continue to meet with all the council members and other city officials to try and convince them to apply for the Safer Grant.

In our commitment to balanced news, FOX19 reached out to the city manager's office multiple times for comment, and didn't hear back.

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