Oklahoma City fire department’s job cuts could slow response time

If Oklahoma City employee unions don’t accept pay cuts, firefighters will lose jobs this summer, resulting in slower emergency response times. If the unions accept cuts, current fire department service levels will be maintained.

BY JOHN ESTUS Published: May 26, 2010
Oklahoma City firefighter jobs will be lost this summer if city employee unions reject salary reductions, resulting in slower emergency response times citywide, Fire Chief Keith Bryant said Tuesday.

"It’s not a good or preferable option for us,” Bryant told the city council during the fire department’s budget presentation.

The fire department could keep current service levels if the unions accept pay cuts, Bryant said.

Negotiations between the city and its police, fire and city worker employee unions are ongoing.

City officials have declined to disclose specific concessions they’ll ask the unions to accept. The city must pass a balanced budget by June 30.

For the fire department, union concessions would allow the restoration of some positions that were lost during midyear budget cuts and addition of 10 firefighters paid for by MAPS 3 use tax money.

Without concessions, fire department service levels will decrease. A fire engine and three brush pumpers will be taken out of service and 29 employees will be cut.

Duplicated services
Ward 5 Councilman Brian Walters asked Bryant whether money could be saved if firefighters change how they respond to medical calls. Ambulances and fire trucks almost always respond to the same medical calls.

"We do need to eliminate some of those that are what you would call non-emergency calls,” Bryant said.