GREENFIELD, Ind. – Greenfield firefighters say they are understaffed and it's putting a strain on public safety. The union that represents the firefighters is asking the city to increase manpower in order to keep up with growth in the community.
According to firefighters, just one emergency run leaves the north side fire house empty.
"It could take us twice as long now to put a fire out or to do our job than it would with a fully staffed crew,” said Jason Davis, who leads the Hancock County Professional Firefighters union.
Right now, there are 44 full-time professional firefighters on staff along with five administrators.
“We are currently running about ten [firefighters] a day which is our minimum staffing number,” said Corey Breese, public information officer for the Greenfield Fire Territory.
The minimum staffing is creating some concerns about effectiveness and the welfare of the firefighters.
“We are operating at unsafe levels where we’re rolling trucks out the door with two guys on a truck when national standard says we should be operating with four guys on a truck,” Davis said.
The firefighters are all also EMTs or paramedics who are tasked with responding to all the medical calls.
Overall, the fire territory had around 3,900 runs last year. They are on pace to beat that number in 2018, according to Breese.
“If we have a cardiac arrest and another sick person – like difficulty breathing or something like that – our city is completely unprotected when it comes to fire or medical emergency,” said Davis, about how quickly their crews are depleted due to the numbers.
Davis said the limitations the department is currently dealing with were clear during a large commercial fire last year at Mueller’s Auto Body.
“They should’ve had at least 24 firefighters on the initial response and there were only nine of duty,” Davis said.
Davis also said some firefighters are considering leaving the department just due to worries about safety.
“If we lose a guy tomorrow, it’s going to take us probably close to six or seven months to get that person on the street to replace that person,” Breese said.
The union is asking the city to hire 16 to 18 firefighters in the next few years.
FOX59 reached out to the mayor’s office. They said they want to work diligently with the fire department to meet public safety needs. But, hiring that many firefighters would cost $2 million per year. The mayor’s office said they do not know what funding source they would use to fulfill the request.
“We’ve only seen two new hires in the last ten years and Greenfield hasn’t gotten any smaller,” Davis said.
A city council member, who co-chairs the budget committee, said he would like to see staffing increased but it must be done in a fiscally responsible way.