Dayton fire chief: ‘We have enough staffing to adequately serve the city’

Dayton Fire Chief Jeffrey L. Payne said the city is safe, despite temporary closures, so-called “brownouts” at certain fire stations.

News Center 7's Sean Cudahy sat down with the chief today after talking Monday night to the union leader representing the city's firefighters, who again expressed concerns about staffing levels in the city.

When massive flames engulfed two semi trucks just before 6 a.m. at Love’s Travel Stop, Station 10, the nearest firehouse, was not staffed.

“Obviously as chief of the fire department, I’d love to have a bigger fire department,” Payne said. “But I believe at our staffing levels we have enough staffing to adequately serve the city.”

>> Dayton fire union chief: Station closest to semi fire at Love’s truck stop was closed

Steve Dunham, president of Dayton FireFighters Local 136, called the practice of brownouts dangerous, and said that fires quickly double in size.

But Payne said the fire department is built on redundancy. Although Station 10 is the closest to Love’s, at 2217 S. Edwin C. Moses Blvd., it also is within the boundaries for Station 11. Firefighters reached the truck stop on Saturday within 4½ minutes of the fire call.

Brownouts are based on staffing available, without having to pay overtime.

“We have a budget to live by,” Payne said. “We have a certain dollar amount in overtime. It would require so much overtime to staff Engine 10 that it just wouldn’t be economically feasible to where we could met our budget each year.”

>> 911 call: people knocked on trucks to get drivers out of semis during fire

He said there will be an influx of staff later this year, from recruiting classes to firefighters returning from paramedic training.

“We’re fairly confident that once these folks start flowing back into the firehouse we’ll have enough staffing to keep Company 10 in service,” Payne said.

The chief also pointed out that there are times even when they are fully staffed a crew from the nearest station might not be available, when the closest crew is out on another call. Then, like what happened on Saturday, the next closest one will step in.

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