Fire department mothballs rescue truck
For nearly 50
years, the Kokomo Fire Department operated two rescue trucks to protect
the city. With one stationed north and another south, these specialized
service vehicles responded to vehicle accidents and fires alike.
But the city administration has decided that
overtime costs have risen too high to continue operating both vehicles.
Two weeks ago, Rescue No. 2 was taken out of service. According to
Chief Nick Glover, the change will greatly improve the department’s
“We just thought the manpower we had could be better
used elsewhere,” said Glover. “We are on a path to go way over budget
on overtime. We had $180,000 budgeted, and as of today (July 24), I’m
at $161,000 spent.
“This was an issue for the administration, and we
were tasked with coming up with a way to head it off. This was the best
option available. It’s always nice to have more an better. I’d like to
have 20 fire trucks and 200 guys and a fire station on every corner,
but it’s not fiscally reasonable.”
Glover contended that the move will prevent the
department from exceeding its $180,000 overtime budget -- an impressive
feat considering the department spent $277,500 in overtime in 2013.
“The way we’ve been operating, this overtime is
spent just to staff the apparatus,” said Glover. “With this change,
staying under $180,000 is my goal, though a lot of factors come into
play with contractual time off and sick leave.”
The rescue truck carries specialized equipment for
forcible entry, ventilation fans, air packs, extrication equipment,
ladders, and lighting. It also carries water to the scene. In essence,
it is a utility truck. It now sits in storage at Fire Station No. 6.
That’s the last place Rick Daily, president of Fire Fighters Local 396
and the former driver for Rescue No. 2, wants it to be.
Daily believes that removing the truck from service
will jeopardize public safety, and he isn’t mincing words about it. He
took to social media to plead his case, launching a Facebook page for
the union and criticizing the city administration for its actions.
“I’m upset because it is a fire truck being shut
down in a city this size,” said Daily. “Shutting it down puts
firefighters’ lives at risk and citizens at risk. It’s been here 50
years, and all of a sudden they’ve decided we don’t need it. But the
size of the city is much larger than it was 50 years ago. We actually
need another rescue truck. I never would have done this; it is the
craziest thing I’ve ever heard.
“If there is a wreck out here now, an engine company
responds. It has no extrication equipment. They have water, but if
someone is trapped or the car is inverted, they have to call once they
get to the scene to dispatch the rescue unit from downtown.”
Glover disagrees with Daily’s assertion and
explained that he has taken the steps necessary to maintain public
safety and evenly distribute services at a lower cost.
“The rescue responded mainly to car accidents,” said
Glover. “We switched that to the fire engines, which is a past
practice. The equipment the rescue carried is now on the engines,
though not to the extent that it was with the rescue. And Rescue No. 1
is stocked to the hilt. It has everything it needs. We also have
trailers with specialty equipment we can haul if needed.
“They will be able to take care of 90 percent of the
calls, but if there is an inverted vehicle, there will be dual response
from the closest engine and the heavy rescue truck from downtown.
Everybody in the city has the exact same coverage. No one is getting
something the other is not.”
Daily said he met with Glover to try to stop the
move, but was unsuccessful. The fact that the move was made to save
money elicited a bitter response from the union head.
“It’s about the money,” said Daily. “Not one person
in the city should be happy about this -- even the people who did it.
I’ve not talked to one firefighter who agrees with this move, including
the chiefs. They put a $180,000 price tag on the citizens of Kokomo and
the fire department.
“You can pay for a $6 million parking garage that
hasn’t had a car in it. You paid off two fire stations. You’re building
an $11 million baseball diamond in a flood plain. By comparison this is
chump change. To put this price tag on people’s heads is absurd.”
Daily was particularly displeased that the move
wasn’t discussed during the recent contract negotiations between the
city and the union.
“They’d been working on this for about six weeks,”
said Daily. “Maybe they could have brought it up during contract
negotiations. They never mentioned it. It’s so underhanded. We try to
negotiate in good faith, while we get threatened with layoffs.”