NEW ORLEANS — Furloughs are underway for the New Orleans Fire Department. They’ll affect the fire fighters and the rest of the city’s employees through the end of the year.
The president of the NOFD’s fire fighters union says that the department is already running with about 15% fewer fire fighters than it should have. Aaron Mischler says that cutting an additional 10% could put the department as much as 25% down.
Fire fighters began taking the furloughs this week on a rotating basis. Also this week, an internal NOFD memo showed a list of the department’s fire trucks and other response vehicles that will remain out of service because there aren’t enough fire fighters on the job to properly operate them. At least nine vehicles are on the list as “out of service” and others will run with fewer fire fighters. There was no word on which days the equipment would be unavailable.
New Orleans Fire Fighters Association President Aaron Mischler says that the reduction in personnel and resources could affect response times.
“Our job relies on every second that we can spare to get there. Seconds mean life or death in our line of work,” Mischler told WGNO News. “So without enough fire fighters on the streets and in these stations, that could lead to a loss of life that could have been otherwise saved.”
A spokesman for Mayor Cantrell said that the city and fire department looked closely at the furloughs while also making public safety a top priority.
“The men and women of the NOFD are being asked to be part of a shared sacrifice. They are no stranger to that, and we are grateful to them for what they are doing,” Communications Director Beau Tidwell said.
The furloughs are all part of the city’s effort to cut its budget as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic. On the same day that Tidwell and Mischler spoke with WGNO, Cantrell was in Baton Rouge hoping to convince lawmakers to send more money to the city.
Cantrell told the lawmakers that the city’s budget is about $150 million in the red. She said that when CARES Act money was distributed, it was diluted at the state level.
“And with the limited dollars that we have been able to receive through the CARES Act funds, we’re hurting desperately,” Cantrell told lawmakers during a committee meeting.
We have one correction to report since our story aired. One of the trucks that we said was slated to be out of service at Station 9 is instead at Station 26.