Minneapolis Fire Chief John Fruetel
MINNEAPOLIS - A city council committee examined a new report Monday that outlines the future of the Minneapolis Fire Department while current firefighters criticized the study.
At the request of the city of Minneapolis, Oregon-based Emergency Services Consulting International (ESCI) spent a year analyzing the department's staffing levels, response times and equipment.
"As with any organization, anyone would like to have more staff. But with the resources they have been given, they are performing very well," said Kent Greene, Senior Vice President of ESCI.
He released data from three volumes of the report and said nearly 98 percent of the time, Minneapolis firefighters respond to calls within four minutes.
Currently, the department staffs 92 firefighters a day. The report recommended 94 firefighters per day, but Minneapolis Fire Chief John Freutel says 100 is a more appropriate number.
"We get multiple runs and I lose depth of my department, depth of my command staff," Freutel said. "It's forcing all of us to work extra hours."
Freutel says ideally, he'd like to add a total of 30 firefighters to his department.
"Every fire chief you talk to is going to want more firefighters, but I do have an issue in Minneapolis, a lot of folks are getting ready to retire. In the next few years, we are going to have a big turnover in terms of attrition," he said.
Joe Mattison, Secretary of Minneapolis Firefighters Local 82, says doing more with less leads to injury. He says he was injured in the Walker Community United Methodist Church fire this summer, which he believes didn't have adequate staff to fight the massive fire.
"C'mon," he said. "We paid $150,000 for the report and we laid off six firefighters last year. That could easily pay for that."
Mattison says his department has lost an estimated 100 firefighters due to cutbacks in the past decade. The union also contended the report's finding that many firefighters use too much sick time, especially on Saturdays with an average of 261 hours per year. ESCI admitted an error that inflated the sick hours three times what they should be, around an average of 87 hours.
The group's report also recommended renovations at 13 of the city's 19 fire stations, and ways the department can make money by possibly getting into the ambulance business, which is a national trend. Minneapolis Fire does not run its own ambulance service.
Chief Freutel says he's open to recommendations that allow him to get ahead of attrition that could cripple his department.
"I appreciate the report, going to take it and use it as a tool. I don't have to agree with everything," he said.
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