by Chelsea Sick
Friday, February 5th
DAYTON, Ohio (WKEF/WRGT)– The battle between the local Dayton Firefighter Union and city leaders heating up. The union president says a recent fire could have been a tragedy, had fire crews not been in the right place at the right time.
In a statement, the union says Dayton Fire Station 10 has been browned out, and although it was the closest fire station to a house fire yesterday morning that station was not staffed. The Dayton fire union says it turned out ok this time but could have been much worse.
“They said had the fire department not gotten here and gotten them out, they wouldn’t have made it out, they wouldn’t have woke up,” homeowner Richard Noles said. Early Thursday morning. Richard Noles says a fire broke out at a home he owns on Cincinnati Street in Dayton, the family inside rescued by firefighters right before the ceiling collapsed.
The president of Dayton Firefighters Local 136 Kraig Robinson says the closest fire engine was not in service that morning, so crews from other Dayton fire stations responded. “If the fire companies were coming from different areas, say engine 4 or ladder 11 weren’t in place we’d be talking an extreme tragedy,” Robinson said.
Robinson and the Dayton Fire Chief Jeff Lykins says there was not enough staff working that morning to staff Engine 10 only a mile from the fire. “They have maintained a minimum staffing for 12 stations is 61 people, 61 people only staffs 11 of the 12 fire stations,” Robinson said. You can see on this map Station 10 was closest to the scene. Ladder 11 and Engine Four both responded instead, each about a mile and a half to three miles away depending on the route.
Last year, the City of Dayton opted not to move forward with the Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response or SAFER Grant application, stating financial concerns. They told us at the time the staffing requirements would have cost them over a million dollars during the 3-year commitment.
Chief Lykins told us Friday, the department was not in a place to apply last year due to the grant’s competitive nature. “We had just at that time got done with a recruit class and didn’t have a lot of attrition, so we had a good amount of firefighters,” Chief Lykins said.
Since then, he says they have lost firefighters through attrition, essentially things like retirement. “What if Ladder 11, what if Engine 4 wasn’t around, what if they couldn’t get there when they did,” Dayton 24/7 Now’s Chelsea Sick asked. “Certainly that’s the nature of emergency services, it’s not uncommon for any apparatus at any station to be out on a call when a structure fire comes in,” Chief Lykins said.
He says with fewer firefighters on staff now, they expect to be more competitive for the SAFER grant this year. “As a matter of fact we are currently writing the grant right now and expect to apply for safer this year,” Chief Lykins said.
Noles says his tenants are staying with family for now, and hopes Station 10 is staffed more often. “I feel like if the station would have been open, they could have gotten here quicker,” Noles said. “I actually went all through the house, the damage is pretty significant, I think it’s probably a total loss.” Noles says the tenants are staying with family for now, the cause of the fire hasn’t yet been identified.
Chief Lykins says station 10 has been staffed 54 percent of the time this year.