Covington, Union meets to resolve fire elimination issues - News, Weather & Sports

Covington meets to resolve fire department issues


City commissioners approved a measure geared toward, at the very least, guaranteeing a minimum number of firefighters per piece of equipment at their meeting on Tuesday.

But, one woman believes that an increased number of firefighters earlier this month, might have helped her cause when her house burst into flames.

"I do believe if they had got there sooner my damage would be less," said Charlene Dietz, whose home was damaged by fire.

A few weeks ago, her home caught fire on E. 40th Street in Covington.  With damages outweighing the value of the house, she thinks a slow response time could be to blame.  That's why she's concerned that some budget cuts in Covington could be putting the citizens at risk.

"When I first heard of the budget cuts in the police and fire departments, I had concerns.  I know how busy this city is.  I know how important these services are," said Dietz.

Firefighters have worked for a few months on a new agreement over some grievances they had and promotions they say weren't made.  On top of that, they say the city violated a staffing protocol of 30 firefighters per day.  But, they've hammered out a potential new agreement.

"We will now be having a staffing agreement per piece of equipment.  If we have a piece of equipment on track, we'll have three people on it.  'but you can't guarantee 30 a day?'  No, I cannot guarantee 30," said Mike Clendenen of the Covington Professional Firefighters Local 38.

If staffing levels are at 30, one more pumper is in service, which is happening a small percentage of the time as it is.  But, being down a handful of people, and with retirements coming, the department could be down as many as 20 workers.  Union representatives say the solution is to hire to the fullest capabilities.

"If they hired us to the level we are budgeted for, which is 118.  We're currently at 109.  We would probably have about a 40-50% chance of having Pumper 1 on track," added Clendenen.

Dietz says the city needs to bring more firefighters on board for everyone who sets foot in Covington.

"The need is here.  It's a very busy city," added Dietz.

This new agreement approved on Tuesday is set to last through 2014.  On top of minimum staffing requirements per piece of equipment, nine positions that were set to be promoted last year will happen under this new plan.

Union members are set to vote on the resolution Wednesday and Thursday.

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