By FireRescue1 Staff
WILMINGTON, Del. — Following the Wilmington Fire Department’s controversial decision to shut down an engine to compensate for overtime costs, city officials are urging the chief to request for more funds.
The practice of conditional closures was reinstated last week, but was modified so that only one particular engine would be placed out of service. Instead of rotating the closure of the department’s three stations, only Engine 6 will be shut down, reported the Delaware Online.
Wilmington Fire Chief Anthony Goode acknowledged the practice was not a popular one, but a necessary one in order to reduce overtime costs when staffing levels are low.
“It would be nice if we could get money,” Chief Goode said. “But I would have to run those requests through the chief of staff, the mayor. In a transitional period, it’s hard.”
However, council members have stated that Chief Goode has yet to approach the council to request more funds. Chief Goode did not attend Monday night’s public safety committee meeting to discuss the closures, stating that pending litigation is keeping him from discussing the matter publicly.
“We will finds the funds,” council member Bob Williams said. “But you’ve got to have a plan.”
Chief Goode stated that the department currently has 11 vacant positions, which place a financial stress on the department. Two additional firefighters will retire mid-December, leaving 13 positions open.
“It costs about $85,000 per vacancy [to fill],” Chief Goode said. “That doesn’t include training, equipment, gear. You might as well say that’s $100,000 per firefighter. Why not utilize some of that funding to offset overtime?”
The next fire recruit training has not yet started; the last class graduated February 2015. Chief Goode noted that it would take seven to nine months for new recruits to begin working.