Philadelphia Ending Fire Department Brownouts

Mayor Jim Kenney and the city's acting fire commissioner are ending the current practices of rotating firefighters through stations and temporarily closing firehouses to cut costs, steps taken during the administration of Kenney's predecessor.

Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney and the city's Acting Fire Commissioner Derrick Sawyer are scheduled to announce on Feb. 11 the end of brownouts by the Philadelphia Fire Department, fulfilling a campaign promise by the mayor. They will end the current practices of rotating firefighters through stations and temporarily closing firehouses to cut costs, steps taken during the administration of Kenney's predecessor, Michael Nutter.

The announcement is scheduled for 1:30 p.m. Eastern at City Hall.

The department's page about brownouts says PFD "has been using brownouts for years to pull on-duty personnel out of service to receive training – typically about 5 companies for training. Rather than assigning companies to training, they will brown-out 3 companies and assign personnel to other stations that require staff and brown-out only 2 companies for training. The Department will also do this on a rolling basis, which means they will rotate which companies will be on a brown-out for personnel replacement, so that no one company is constantly out of service. Many other departments around the country use this as a tool as well, for training and filling in positions at other company locations and have used it during these hard economic times to preserve jobs by significantly reducing overtime costs (i.e. Los Angeles, Boston)."

The page also says the city expected to save an estimated $3.8 million from the General Fund budget by reducing overtime costs in these ways; apparatus would be idled and the personnel redistributed to other in-service companies that required staff because someone was out on leave time. Thus, the department would not have to pay overtime to personnel filling in for others.

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