MIAMI (CBSMiami) – There are more rolling brownouts at fire stations across Miami-Dade on Tuesday as the fire department looks for way to plug a budget gap created by ballooning overtime costs.
Miami-Dade Fire Rescue took fire and rescue trucks out of service at fire stations in Saga Bay, South Miami, Sunniland/Pinecrest, West Little River, Ulipa and North Miami East for 24 hours.
At Saga Bay, the station’s lone fire rescue truck rushed out to a call about a woman who had fainted around 6:45 a.m. They ended up taking her to a hospital.
“Had that call come in 15 minutes later, this truck wouldn’t have responded and there would have been a delayed response in this area to someone’s emergency,” said Miami-Dade fire fighter union president Rowan Taylor.
A fire truck based in Cutler Bay was also taken out of service for 12 hours.
“It’s crazy. They do a lot of work for us around here, so that’s ridiculous,” said Cutler Bay resident Willie Herrera.
Fire fighters argue that the cuts have put the public at risk by slowing response times while neighboring fire stateions respond to uncovered neighborhoods.
“If someone in this area today has a heart attack, stops breathing, the next unit to respond is going to take about four to five extra minutes to get there and that can truly be the difference between life and death,” said Assistant Fire Chief Louie Hernandez.
On Monday, nearly a dozen fire and rescue trucks were taken out of service for 24 hours.
Once a truck is taken out of service, the firefighters and rescue personnel who work on them are assigned to fill in at other stations where their co-workers have called in sick. In doing so, the county does not have to pay overtime to an employee to fill in for the sick employee.
Firefighters are upset about the temporary reduction in services. On Monday, dozens protested outside Fire station 64 in Miami Lakes. The engine there was one of the ones taken out of service for the day.
“That fire station is closed and your grandmother is having chest pains. It’s going to take us 10 maybe 15 minutes to get there because we have to come from another territory,” said fire fighter Alexander Munoz.
Miami Lakes Mayor Michael Pizzi said his office was bombarded all day by concerned residents with questions.
“Public safety cannot be touched. And I urge the mayor of Dade county to find the money to keep these stations open,” said Miami Lakes councilman Nelson Rodriguez.
Rodriguez, a firefighter himself, calls the cuts a recipe for disaster.
“When one of our trucks is shut down and the other truck broke down, here we have the worst case scenario happening in Miami Lakes on day one of these brown-outs. So it does hit home,” said Rodriguez.
The brown-outs are in addition to proposed cuts for the next fiscal year, which include more than 140 fire fighter layoffs and taking six units out of service.
The rolling brown-outs are expected to continue until October 1st when the new fiscal year begins.