HYPERLOCAL NEWS HUB BY THE UNIVERSITY OF MEMPHIS DEPARTMENT OF JOURNALISM
The Fate of Ladder Truck Four Still Undecided
Leah Roen, CY resident
March 27, 2011
by Alice Hart MicroMemphis Reporter
A group of Cooper-Young residents and business owners met at the Lindenwood Christian Church last Tuesday night to discuss strategy.
In January, Kemp Conrad and Fire Department Director Alvin Benson called a town hall meeting to discuss the possibility of taking truck four out of service. At that meeting, Benson referenced a 2009 efficiency study that concluded Memphis should reduce its number of ladder trucks by a total of seven.
Leah Roen, an attorney in Cooper-Young who called Tuesday’s meeting, has been keeping track.
“They cut two trucks last year,” she said. “They cut Hickory Hill, and they cut Whitehaven, and those people didn’t make a stink. And then they planned to cut two more this year and two more next year.”
Roen was told that each ladder truck that is cut saves the Fire Department’s yearly budget one million dollars. However, Roen doesn’t think the savings is worth the risk.
“When there is a fire, if it is a commercial structure, they send two trucks. So, let’s say that truck four is out of service, which means they’ve been removed from the firehouse, then we’ve got to pull two trucks from elsewhere to cover.”
Members of the audience voiced concerns about the population density of Midtown and the unique age and structure of the buildings there. At the town hall meeting in January, Director Benson emphasized Memphis’ high level of redundancy compared to other cities. He showed a map that illustrated overlaps by different fire stations. However, the map did not account for population or building density.
“The high rises and the two- and three-story older, historically significant architecture all require some specialization. All the people that staff those houses we’re talking about have been there, for the most part, seven or eight years or longer,” one audience member said.
Roen agreed. She said that a firefighter who is not properly trained might not know “how to deal with a boiler, or how to tear the ceiling in, or how to vent it properly or deal with the basement. It’s a whole different animal, and we’re going to lose those firemen.”
The participants were also frustrated by the announcement that the fire department recently purchased several new “quints” and a bariatric ambulance, even while threatening to cut trucks currently in service.
A quint is a combination pumper and ladder truck, usually employed by small or rural fire departments that need both kinds of trucks but can only afford one. The bariatric ambulance can transport patients weighing up to 1,600 pounds.
June West, Executive Director of Memphis Heritage, felt betrayed by these purchases in light of the budget cuts.
“They’re not saving money; they’re redistributing it.”
Click here to read about Kemp Conrad's January town hall meeting on the possible fire truck cuts.
Click here to read the Storify about the January town hall meeting.