The day after a Canby Park blaze killed two firefighters, the Wilmington Fire Department suspended a controversial program in which a fire truck was taken out of service on a particular day to save on overtime costs.
Although no link was found, a fire engine nearest to the Sept. 24 deadly blaze had been placed out of service that day.
On Tuesday, citing $500,000 in overtime costs four months into the budget year, the department resumed the controversial practice called conditional company closures and idled a truck. This occurred nearly two months to the day that Capt. Christopher Leach and Lt. Jerry Fickes died when the first floor of that burning Canby Park rowhome collapsed, leaving them trapped.
“While the practice of Conditional Company Closures (CCC) may be unpopular among firefighters, the program is necessary in order to control overtime spending,” Wilmington Fire Chief Anthony S. Goode said in a statement.
“During that fire an engine company–located less than a half-mile away–was shut down that night,” said (Wilmington Firefighters Local 1590 Union President Bruce) Schweiger. “We can’t continue to do more with less…it feels like Groundhog Day–every couple months we sit here and ask for support from the public, from the administration, and from the city to hear our message about our safety and the safety of the residents and the visitors of Wilmington.”
But Chief Anthony Goode said the conditional company closures were suspended in the wake of their investigation into the fatal fire.
“An investigation found it had no impact on that specific fire and initial firefighter activities and response and suppression activities,” Goode told WDEL.
“When you close a fire station, units have to travel along the distance, and everyone knows that when you travel a longer distance–every second is precious when you’re dealing with emergencies and you’re trying to save lives and properties,” said Gabriel Padon, Jr., secretary of the Local 1590 union.