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Bliss emergency response times affected by furloughs

By Darren Hunt, DHuntabc7@yahoo.com
Published On: Jul 09 2013 07:05:17 PM CDT
Updated On: Jan 15 2014 10:18:33 PM CST

July 2013: Ft. Bliss Furloughs. A closer look at the impact forced budget cuts will affect firefighters.

EL PASO, Texas -

A local fire fighter's union is voicing concerns about the effect Fort Bliss furloughs are having on response times.

"I feel that they are pushing the boundaries," said Cesar Del Rio, vice president of the International Association of Fire Fighters Union Local F-299.

Del Rio said when the government denied Fort Bliss' request for fire fighter exemptions to furloughs, it further compromised response times.

"From a typical response time of six minutes to, we're looking at 10, 10 to 12 minutes," he said. "So my assumption is you would have to be doubling that response time."

Del Rio said that could be the difference between life or death for some, depending on the situation.

"I want the residents of Fort Bliss know that response times are going to be impacted," Del Rio said. "Their services are going to be reduced."

Fort Bliss Fire Chief Charles Butler said the Department of Defense requirements are a five minute response time or less. But he added that is extremely difficult with only 90 fire fighters and more than 11,000 people living on Fort Bliss.

"I won't lie to you," Butler said. "We are stressed, but myself I have 35 years in fire service and we know how to implement procedures so that we minimize the risk, but still continue operation."

At any given time during the furlough period any given fire station could be closed, Butler said, shifting fire fighters to other stations, but causing longer response times for those who are in the area where a station is closed.

"For the past few years we've been trying to catch up with Fort Bliss growth," Butler said. "Nobody likes sequestration. Nobody likes the furloughs, but we understand Congress is the only one that appropriates the money and there is just not enough money to be appropriated."

Chief Butler said as many as eight of the post's 90 fire fighters will be furloughed, per day, through September.

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