Wilmington’s Fire Engine 6 station has been placed back into service for the time being – pending a complete assessment of fire department operations.
Wilmington Mayor Mike Purzycki’s spokesman John Rago provided a statement that says funding for Engine 6 staffing is coming from “internal fire department budget lines.”
No further information was provided – leaving Wilmington City Council members like Bob Williams nervous.
“I do think it’s a band aid on the situation right now," Williams said. "I think it should get us a couple of months."
Williams worries the assessment could lead to a further reductions to a staff local firefighter union president Kevin Turner says already has 21 vacant positions.
Turner said the department is especially unprepared to deal with high rise fires at its current capacity.
Both Williams and Turner also don’t want conditional company closures – limited to Engine 6 during the final year of former fire chief Anthony Goode’s tenure – to be reinstated.
Under that policy, the engine was shut down once it reached a certain threshold of sick and vacation time rather than pay overtime. And it’s still unclear why Engine 6 was targeted in the first place.
It was shut down the night of a September fatal Canby Park fire and has remained out of service since. It would have been the first to respond to the blaze that killed three firefighters.
Wilmington’s firefighter union president Kevin Turner says his members are still reeling.
“My members have certainly been greatly affected by the deaths of three of their co-workers, and then to have the engine put back out of service, it was highly demoralizing to say the least," Turner said.
Instead, Williams would like to see Wilmington follow in Philadelphia’s footsteps.
“They had a commission look into it – and they have completely discontinued the program of rolling brownouts, which is the same thing as a conditional company closure," Williams said.
The commission in Philadelphia formed after a fatality there, similar to the Canby Park fire that left three Wilmington firefighters dead last September.
City of Wilmington officials have not indicated if conditional company closure will continue.