MINNEAPOLIS -- It took a fire to reignite a feud that has been blazing for years. Is the city of Minneapolis safe with the staffing levels at present in the Minneapolis Fire Department?
Mark Lakosky, the head of the city's firefighters union, doesn't think so. "This is far from a union issue, this is a safety issue. We aren't being protected and I got to say something," Lakosky said Tuesday morning.
The three-alarm fire that destroyed Walker Community United Methodist Church Sunday night took no lives, but five firefighters were injured.
No one is going so far as to suggest staffing levels made that happen but Lakosky is saying there are staffing issues and those greatly increase the chance, in his opinion, of real danger.
"Where we are at with these levels and continued cuts, people will die, are we really going to wait for that?" Lakosky said.
Minneapolis Fire Chief John Fruetel isn't shying away from the fact that he oversees a smaller staff. He says the numbers in the department have been on a downward trend for years. The department currently has 390 people on the full time roster, down from more than 450 a decade ago.
Chief Fruetel says he is looking to change that. "Obviously we would love to have more firefighters and that is frankly a challenge of mine as the Chief to grow us back and provide a means for us to hire firefighters," Chief Fruetel said.
But the Chief says that will be a challenge because of funding. The department faces the same cuts other government agencies do in an era of less state money to go around.
But it is true that doing more, or at least as much with less, is hurting the department.
According to data collected by The National Fire Protection Association, the Minneapolis Fire Department isn't at the suggested 90 percent rate of hitting the recommended nine minute response time. In 2010, the department achieved the 90 percent rate of a nine minute response time. Last year, the department only hit that time 79 percent of the time.
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