Neighbors to city: Don’t mess with our fire trucks

Emotions ran high Thursday during a neighborhood meeting about relocating fire trucks. About 45 neighbors met at Martin Weiss Recreation Center for a presentation from First Assistant City Manager A.C. Gonzalez about proposed changes to three neighborhood fire stations.

The proposed city budget calls for relocating ladder trucks from three Oak Cliff fire stations. The stations would retain their ambulances and fire engines, which carry water and always are first on the scene, but lose their ladder trucks. Fire fighters use ladder trucks to work on the roof of a burning building and ventilate it. Trucks also carry heavy equipment, such as the Jaws of Life tool that frees passengers from car wrecks.

The city would take one of its 22 ladder trucks out of commission under the reorganization plan. Gonzalez says the changes would save he city $2 million a year. But Oak Cliff’s City Council members say they doubt that figure.

The changes are as follows:

The ladder truck at Dallas Fire Station No. 49, at 4901 S. Hampton, would move to Station No. 46, at 331 E. Camp Wisdom.

The truck from Station No. 26, at 3303 Sheldon, would move to Station No. 52, at 2504 Cockrell Hill Road.

And the truck from Station No. 15, at 111 E. Eighth, would move to Station No. 33, at 745 W. Illinois.

The other station affected is No. 19, in Lakewood.

In May, the city analyzed its fire-and-rescue system, using computer software that other major cities, including New York and Los Angeles, have used to make their systems more efficient. It was the first time in 25 years the city had done such an analysis.

The changes, Gonzalez said, would save the city about $2 million a year, and they would increase average response times by 3 seconds. The city would have to spend money on construction to build new garages to house the trucks at the other stations, plus there would be moving costs. Gonzalez says the savings would outweigh those costs.

But how the changes would save the city money is murky. Gonzalez says the annual savings would come mostly from overtime costs and reduced maintenance and fuel costs from the one truck taken out of commission.

The proposed 2011-2012 budget calls for hiring 200 new fire fighters, however, and that will reduce overtime costs once cadets graduate in April.

Council members Delia Jasso and Scott Griggs say they doubt the $2 million figure.

“Moving the trucks doesn’t save any money,” District 3 Councilman Scott Griggs says.

And it doesn’t make sense to take a truck the city already has paid for out of commission.

Neighbors became irritated during Gonzalez’s presentation Wednesday, and they were confrontational during the question-and-answer portion of the meeting. Neighbors said they felt the changes were “sprung on us”, and that Oak Cliff is a “dumping ground” any time the city wants to make some controversial change.

City Council has one meeting before the final budget vote on Saturday Oct. 1, and Jasso says she is asking for the budget vote to be delayed.

Griggs said the city should be adding trucks instead of taking one out of commission. He noted that Station No. 12 at 7520 W. Wheatland, which is in his district, has no truck. And the nearest DFD truck is miles away. Problem is, the city has no money for a new truck.

He asked neighbors to read the city’s budget proposal. And if they should see something that could be cut, or if they find a way to save money, email him: scott@griggsfordallas.com.


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