Budget cuts could prevent Martinsville Fire Department from saving lives

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MARTINSVILLE (WSLS10) - Thankfully, when a fire consumed the apartment complex at 800 Madison Street last week everyone was able to get out safely and no one had to be rescued.

Had a rescue been necessary, the fire department would have been able to send in firefighters; however, come the start of the new fiscal year on July 1, that may no longer be the case because of a proposed budget cut.

"It will put us in a bind," admitted Martinsville Fire Chief Teddy Anderson.

Anderson said the proposed 5 percent budget cut would drastically reduce the number of part-time firefighters the city is able to afford.

Those firefighters are used to fill in when full-time firefighters take a day off, so fewer part-time firefighters means that each firefighter shift would have to be reduced from eight full-time firefighters to six..

"We run medical calls five times as often as we do fire calls. So, with that in mind, if we have one ambulance out, that's two people gone. We're automatically down to four. Quite often, we have two ambulances out. That puts us down to a staffing of two firefighters," continued Anderson.

Two firefighters, he said, is not enough. Both firefighters would have to fight the fire and therefore would not be able to go in and preform a rescue. On top of that, OSHA requires firefighters go into burning buildings in pairs and that two firefighters remain outside for every two that go in.

Martinsville City Manager Leon Towarnicki said the city doesn't really have a choice.

"If there were any other options at this point, we would not be doing that," Towarnicki emphasized. "This is a reduction that we saw coming. This really should not come as a surprise to many people."

Nothing will be final though until the budget is approved, which expected to happen at the first council meeting next month.

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