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FIRE STAFFING OFF, CAUSING CLOSINGS ON SPOT BASIS

Failure to meet staffing levels forced city fire officials to conduct spot closings of stations late last week and during the weekend.

Because the Fire Department's overtime budget was cut to $125,000, officials have embraced a policy of closing a station if total staffing drops below 12. During the closing, firefighters assigned to that station are reassigned to Station 1 at City Hall.

The closings were the first since the new policy was adopted during budget deliberations in December.

Fire Capt. James Shanahan said Station 5 on Fairmount Avenue was closed Thursday and Friday nights.

He said that Saturday night, a firefighter called in sick from Station 3 on Newland Avenue, putting the station "down one man from our minimum."

While Station 3 was closed, Shanahan said, there was one minor rescue call in the station's service area. But this required an ambulance crew, which is stationed at City Hall, anyway, he said.

Fire officials said staffing for the second shift Thursday night dropped below 12 because one firefighter had to leave when one of his children was admitted to the hospital. Friday, they said, one firefighter called in sick.

Under the new department policy, additional fire personnel will be called in on overtime only for is a major fire or rescue call.

The only other situation in which firefighters would be called in on overtime is if total staffing falls to nine or fewer, according to the policy.

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