East St. Louis to cut nearly one-third of firefighters

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by Lauren Trager / News 4

KMOV.com

Posted on September 5, 2013 at 10:21 PM

Updated Friday, Sep 6 at 8:03 AM

 (KMOV) -- One Metro-East town will soon lose one-third of its entire fire department and many people are worried it will mean their city will get far more dangerous.

East St. Louis Mayor Alvin Parks told News 4 the money to pay for the firefighters has dried up, just as they knew it would when they got the grant to pay for them back in 2011.

But some people who live here say something must be done to keep them safe. Their lives, and property should be the city’s number one priority.

“I think it’s a travesty, it’s really sad because the people of East St. Louis we need that protection,” said resident Johnnie Ashford.

In all, 17 firefighters will be out of a job, fire engines left unmanned, and firefighters say response times will be seriously reduced.

“We will be closing engine houses and so will be coming from farther away,” said East St. Louis Fire Captain Brandon Walls.

Capt. Walls said number and timing of the layoffs came as a shock because the department already seriously strapped.

He thinks the money could have been found in the budget to keep all of them in place. “This line of duty, you can’t just keep cutting corners,” Capt. Walls said. 

He and others tried to take their concerns to city leaders Thursday, but News 4 went directly to the mayor.

“It’s not nearly as bleak as it sounds,” said Mayor Parks.

Mayor Parks said in January they will re-hire ten of the firefighters, but until then, he said, they had no choice.

“Did you look into any other options for funding these firefighters?” asked News 4 Reporter Lauren Trager. “Well we have and we’ve found ways to reduce that negative impact,” said Mayor Parks.

Mayor Parks says he’s confident the firefighters can make due. But others are not at all sure.

“Our lives will be put in danger, our property will be destroyed and it’s just not fair,” said Ashford.

The cuts take effect in just weeks. 

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