EUGENE, Ore. — The fire department faces major cuts as the city of Eugene budget committee looks to cut $3 million from the 2015 fiscal year.
Firefighters say the proposed cuts, which could be up to $700,000, would cut a vital resource for the community. Engine 2 at Fire Station 2 is the truck that responds first to most calls, and if the proposed cuts went through it would be out of commission.
“The engine has paramedics on it, has the water on it, the hoses. They’re first, in general, to all our structure fires, all our EMS calls, provide that really critical EMS care to the community,” said Mike Barnebey, President of the Lane Professional Firefighters Association.
But if the proposed cuts went through–roughly $320,000 to $700,000–Engine 2 would no longer operate at Station 2.
“That burden will then shift to the truck company, and then the other ancillary engine companies around the city,” Barnebey said.
Barnebey says cutting Engine 2 would increase the number of calls other trucks will have to respond to, making them do more with less. Engine 2, which responds to about 2,700 calls a year, is a crucial element of Station 2, a station which already plays a key role in the Eugene Fire Department.
“This station has been located specifically here so it can get to other parts of the city very, very quickly and back up the other apparatus if need be,” Barnebey said.
“The city executive team has looked at a number…of factors including are there places where we can reduce where the impact won’t be felt as greatly as in other places,” said Jan Bohman, City of Eugene spokeswoman.
Bohman says every year each department has to report where it could cut funds if needed, but it doesn’t mean they’re completely eliminating programs.
“This particular reduction in fire is one that has been on that list for a number of years, and, in fact, has been a recommended reduction in the past,” Bohman said.
But firefighters say any reduction hurts the community.
“This doesn’t affect our employees as much as it affects the community, and affects how we can respond, and how often we can respond, and what capability we can respond. So that’s what we’re advocating for…to make sure that we can get those paramedics on scene and mitigate those emergencies and take care of those fires,” Barnebey said.
Barnebey says since 1981 the fire department’s call volume has gone up 700 percent. If Engine 2 was cut, he says the fire department would be at a 30-year low for staffing.
There were two public hearings on the budget last month. The city manager will create the budget proposal, likely later in February or in March. The public will have a chance to weigh in again this spring.