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Memphis brown outs suspended for 1 day because of 2 fire deaths — Will return Tuesday after director determines closed company not a factor

Action News 5 – Memphis, Tennessee

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If I am reading the WMC-TV story correctly the brown out program that closed four fire companies this weekend in Memphis, including a truck company due at a double fatal apartment fire, was suspended today. But it will return tomorrow after Memphis Fire Department Director Alvin Benson determined the closed company did not impact the fireground operations.

Benson has said publicly he does not like this rotating closure of companies but you have to wonder what to make of this move. So, what if the next fatal fire is impacted by a closed company? Then what?

It will eventually happen, so why even suspend the program for a day? Either the political leaders can take the fallout from their decision to save overtime money and should just go on with business as usual or the closings don't make sense and they should cease immediately. Waiting for the fire where there is a clear connection before abandoning the program is an insane policy. 

Kontji Anthony, WMC-TV:

The Memphis Fire Department is investigating if taking a truck out of service to save money resulted in the deaths of two people. The investigation resulted in the suspension of what the department calls brown outs.

MFD Director Alvin Benson said the brown out had nothing to do with that case. Benson says an internal investigation Monday revealed Truck 21's brownout status did not impact the fire department's response to the fatal fire.

TN Memphis Benson

But Memphis fire union president Thomas Malone says it is hard to say if the truck would have had better response, if it was already up and running.

"Any time you make cuts in this fire service, you're taking a chance. This could be the reason that happened," said Malone.

Malone says brownouts gamble with people's lives.

The fire department says brownouts will resume Tuesday, since they do not blame the brownout for the two deaths. The director says he does not like brownouts, but he prefers them over cutting trucks from service altogether.


Comments - Add Yours

  • Mark too

    I'm really surprised that brown outs aren't more prevalent considering that every time a fire happens in an area normally covered by the browned out company/station, it is always determined that the brown out had absolutely no impact on the response to the incident or outcome. 

    If the brown out of the first due truck company had no impact on the FD's response to something as serious as a double fatal fire in that company's first due area, then maybe the city should just close those companies/stations permanently because clearly their absence will not have an impact on calls of a less serious nature.  

    Why keep them around if their absense has "no impact", right?


    Just in case it wasn't obvious enough……..

    ** Sarcasm Alert!!  ** 


    • dave statter

      I’ve said that for a long time. Don’t tell me one hand every second counts and then all is okay when you do brown outs. If the companies aren’t neeeded then the management has clearly been mismanaging by spending the taxpayers money all these years.

      That said, the smart fire chief doesn’t try to pull the wool over the public’s eyes and admits things will not be as safe when forced to do these things. At least Benson has said he doesn’t want to lose the companies. But this BS that happened today just makes no sense at all.

      I’ve also thought for a long time that rotating closures just provides cover for the politicians who don’t want to make the hard decision that could mean a fire company closing for good in their district or ward.

  • AArdvark

    Granted that this particular Brown-out may or may not have directly contributed to these deaths, ANY "leader" that can actually say that firehouse closures don't impact response times or manpower has to be severly mentally disabled.

  • Met Fan

    Just have a look at the Director's Bio.  It seems he hasn't been on a fire truck in a real long time.  Check the link this is from the official city page.  His resume seems pretty weak in the suppression department.  Yet he's pretty confident in his assessment of things.

  • Ritt

    Dave – Spot on.  A fire company usually costs over a million dollars a year.  Its only function is public safety.  If closing the company will not effect public safety where is this going.  If I was on the council or the City Manager I would ask "what other companies can we close that won't effect public safety?"

  • UseToBeDC

    Two things
    One, the first unit was on the scene in 8 minutes!?!? That is a long time for a urban/paid department.

    Second "Brown out" is too innocuous a term.  The IAFF and others need to get the word out to call this what it actually is(and what they called it in DC) FIREHOUSE ROULETTE!!

    Ok one more thing.  Interesting how the closing of companies NEVER contributes to a fire death. 

    And to Dave's point about temporary versus permanent closures. The money is being taken from the FD to pay for votes.  Municipalities need to prioritize public safety.  But they are willing to gamble that the lawsuit damages(IF the claimants can prove their case)will be less than what it would cost to fund the FD.