Detroit Mayor Dave Bing on Monday said 164 firefighters will be laid off by the end of July, but said he expects the city will get a federal grant to fund and restore 108 of the positions.
Bing also said in a statement that many of the remaining 56 firefighters will be recalled through attrition.
The layoffs represent about 18 percent of the city's 881-member fire department, according to figures provided by the mayor's office.
"Since I became mayor, I've made public safety my top priority, and I've said I would protect the jobs of police and firefighters, but fiscal realities have made this untenable," Bing said.
Meanwhile, the head of the city's firefighters union called Bing's plan "indefensible" and said if the cuts remain, "there will be times when we won't have the necessary resources to respond."
"These cuts by the city will put its Fire Department and its residents at great risk -- increasing response times and further taxing an already greatly reduced work force," Dan McNamara, president of the Detroit Fire Fighters Association, said in a statement.
Until the Fire Department receives the grant, Bing said Fire Commissioner Don Austin and his staff plan to maintain high levels of service by:
-- Deploying engines from nearby fire stations when needed and using recently installed GPS systems in fire trucks to improve dispatch response.
-- Conducting a thorough risk analysis of whether it's better to fight fires from inside or outside a structure.
-- Increasing the use of support personnel to help firefighters.
-- Continuing community fire prevention education.
Monday's announcement came after Detroit fire crews responded to a string of about 16 building fires on the city's east side late Sunday and early Monday. Fire officials say arson is a possible cause.
The fire department has 1,257 employees, including 248 EMS technicians. According to the city, the department responds to 30,000 fire calls and 135,000 EMS calls annually.
"Again, laying off any of our courageous and dedicated public safety personnel is the last thing I want to do at this point, but I have to face this hard reality," Bing said.
STATEMENT FROM MAYOR DAVE BING ON DETROIT FIRE DEPARTMENT LAYOFFS
Since I became Mayor, I've made public safety my top priority and I've said I would protect the jobs of police and firefighters, but fiscal realities have made this untenable.
With my administration continuing to work to fiscally stabilize the City and with recent cuts to the City's budget, we're announcing the layoffs of 164 Detroit Fire Department firefighters by the end of July. But my administration has every expectation of being awarded a federal grant to fund and restore 108 of those positions. And many, if not most, of the remaining 56 firefighters are expected to be recalled to the fire department through attrition.
The current 2012-2013 budget also allows for the hiring of Emergency Medical Technicians to bolster the number of EMS staff who responded to 135,000 calls each year, or 81% of the calls to Fire Department.
Until the Fire Department receives the grant, Commissioner Don Austin and his staff have developed a plan to effectively and efficiently maintain the highest levels of fire service for the city's citizens.
Among the components of the plan:
Again, laying off any of our courageous and dedicated public safety personnel is the last thing I want to do at this point, but I have to face this hard reality. I have every confidence in Commissioner Austin and the men and woman of the Fire Department to maintain their highest standards of fire services and public safety for our citizens.
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