Source: CBS3

The city has started temporarily closing fire stations in order to balance its budget.

The rolling “brownouts” began with the closing of three fire companies as of 8:05 a.m. Monday.

Union members hosted a news conference as Engine 57 shut its doors for the day in West Philadelphia. Union officials said the closures are creating unsafe conditions in affected neighborhoods.

The city says these rotating brownouts will not have an impact on public safety and firefighters from those companies will be redeployed to other companies or will undergo training.

Fire Commissioner Lloyd Ayers said in the past, five companies a day were closed to training. But now only two companies per day will go to training.

“This is a game. This is moving pieces around in order to affect protection,” said Firefighters Union President Bill Gault. “Sooner or later its going to bite them in the butt.”

During an afternoon news conference, Mayor Nutter repeated his assertion that the plan does not compromise safety and said the union is simply fighting to retain overtime for its members.

Nutter insists that the use of rolling closures at fire stations to cut costs is an accepted practice throughout the country that will not impact the safety of residents. He it was “an insult” to firefighters for the union to suggest otherwise.

“Not one firefighter, not one, has lost a job here. Everyone is working. This is about overtime. That’s all its about,” Nutter said.

The city expects to save approximately $3.8 million a year in overtime costs with rolling brownouts or closures.

But firefighters said they are already cut to the bone following the permanent closures of five fire companies and two ladder companies last year.

The firefighters union, Local 22, is planning to send a formal letter to city council asking for an investigation into the closures. A spokesman said the fire department did “no research in deciding which stations to close.”

The union is planning to post “closed” signs on the affected stations as a form of protest.

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