Minimum fire staffing amid Norwood fiscal emergency worries chie - Cincinnati News, FOX19-WXIX TV

Minimum fire staffing amid Norwood fiscal emergency worries chief

(FOX19 NOW/Ken Brown) (FOX19 NOW/Ken Brown)
NORWOOD, OH (FOX19) -

Five people, including an infant, were rescued from a weekend apartment fire.

Fortunately, all of Norwood Fire Department's 11 on-duty firefighter/paramedics were available to respond to the 5300 block of Moeller Avenue when the first alarm dropped about 5:30 a.m. Saturday, Fire Chief Ron Wallace said.

Otherwise, the fire's outcome may have been different.

"We may not have been able to rescue all of them or put the fire out before it became more intense," Wallace said.

Norwood Fire Department is operating now on record-low daily staffing due to budget cuts amid a city fiscal emergency. 

They must have at least 11 firefighter/paramedics on duty per day, including a supervisor, to handle calls.

In previous years, minimum staffing was 13 daily.

The fire department handles about a dozen calls for service daily, according to the chief.

That includes calls for fires, motor vehicle accidents, hazardous material incidents and other assistance runs.

Norwood also provides mutual aid to other communities if they are available. They also can get help from other fire agencies. 

"As a result of personnel reduction, Norwood fire now puts a lot of emphasis on fire safety and prevention programs and inspections," said Chief Wallace.

When flames broke out early Sunday in the basement of the Moeller Avenue apartment building, residents on the second story quickly became trapped, he said.

Norwood police arrived first on the scene.

They said officers saw people leaning out windows on the second floor, asking for help.

The officers tried to go inside, but the smoke was too thick.

They said a mother held her 7-month-old daughter out of a second floor apartment window.  An officer and a bystander lifted up another officer to reach the infant and bring her to safety.

Firefighters arrived and rescued four other residents, Chief Wallace said. 

"They brought them down on a exterior ladder because the stairs were impassable for the occupants due to heavy smoke," he said.

Fire crews also rescued a cat, and another resident walked out of the building on his own.

"It’s always nice to come home with the same amount of people that you left with in the morning or, in this case, more people -- a baby and a bunch of residents," said Norwood firefighter James Lee. 

Norwood firefighters requested mutual aid from Elmwood Place but called it off because they had the fire under control before they arrived, Chief Wallace said.

He estimated the damage at $25,000, mostly from smoke.

The fire's cause remains under investigation.

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