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Union says DC Fire is rotating closures to save money. Department spokesman says it's not true.

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“There are no rolling brownouts–or station shutdowns. Units are off the street  for various reasons like maintenance and vacation coverage. The public needs to  know the city has full and complete coverage.” Those are the words of Lon Walls, Director of Communications for the DC Fire & EMS Department as he told Fox 5/WTTG-TV the department was not using the rotating closures of fire companies to save money.

This conflicts with the press release issued Saturday by President Ed Smith, IAFF Local 36:

The DC Fire Fighters want to make the public aware that Engine 28 at 1763 Lanier Pl NW (serving the U St. Corridor, Adams Morgan, Kalorama, & Cleveland Park neighborhoods) and Truck 14 at 4930 Connecticut Ave. NW (serving the Cleveland Park, Woodley Park, Glover Park, & Cathedral Heights neighborhoods) are closed today to “save on overtime”. Yesterday, June 22nd, 2012, it was Truck 8 quartered at 101 Atlantic St. SE (serving the Congress Heights, Washington Highlands, and Bellevue neighborhoods).

This concept has been tried over the years with disastrous results. Whether it’s labelled “Firehouse Roulette” or “Brown Outs”, the end result is the same – people get hurt. It isn’t  a matter of “if” – it’s a matter of “when”…

The department has started this practice this week, on the heels of a major storm passing through the area last night, taxing the Fire Department’s resources.

I want to be clear we do not condone this practice and believe it to be unnecessarily, and highly dangerous.

The question has to be asked –  is someone’s life worth a few thousand dollars of overtime?

As the press release points out, The Nation’s Capital used rotating closures in the past as a way to save money. Going back to the 1970s this practice was dubbed “firehouse roulette” by Local 36.  Each attempt was halted after significant coverage in the local media about tragic fires that occurred near closed companies.  Below, are two stories I did in 1994 that will provide a little history.

More from Fox 5/WTTG-TV

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