East St. Louis firefighter releases YouTube video on department struggles

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by Laura Hettiger / News 4 and KMOV.com staff

KMOV.com

Posted on March 14, 2013 at 10:56 AM

Updated Thursday, Mar 14 at 12:06 PM

A video posted to YouTube has ignited a discussion about budget cuts and their impact on a Metro-East fire department.

Part documentary, part music video, an East St. Louis firefighter created and posted a video on Monday to let the public know what the department faces if money is cut from the budget.

In 1998, there were 150 firefighters in East St. Louis. Today, there are only 53. That number could be slashed when the city’s federal grant runs out at the end of March.

If East St. Louis does not get a new grant and if the budget continues to be a problem, the department could be cut to 31 full-time firefighters by the start of May.

They are staggering numbers, but the firefighter who made the video tried his best to put the statistics into perspective.

He says most departments have five engines, two chiefs and 15 firefighters respond to a structure fire. Right now in East St. Louis, they can only send two engines with six firefighters.

After the layoffs, it will be down to one engine with three firefighters.

Several fire officials throughout the area, including East St. Louis Fire Chief Jason Blackmon and Collinsville Fire Chief Mark Emmert say News 4 the department would be able to use mutual aid from other nearby cities. That means if something catastrophic happened, the East St. Louis Fire Department would be covered.

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