Fewer fire fighters respond to NOLA fires; fire chief reacts

Fewer fire fighters respond to NOLA fires; fire chief reacts

The union representing New Orleans fire fighters says there are not enough personnel rolling out to fire scenes, and it's become a public safety issue.

But the fire superintendent disagrees.

"We are now down to around 570 personnel, and what is happening is a product of that," said Nick Felton, president of the New Orleans Fire Fighters Association. "Fire fighters are now responding with fewer fire fighters to emergency incidents, and it's a very dangerous situation.”

He said a former fire chief warned the city that 694 fire fighters should be the lowest number. Felton called it a citywide problem as many fire trucks roll out with only three fire fighters and not the four that align with national standards. Ideally, two fire fighters would go inside to battle a fire and two would remain outside.  

“This is really honing down and making a dangerous situation for the citizens as well as the fire fighters,” Felton said.

At City Hall, NOFD Superintendent Tim McConnell responded.

“It's not.It's not, you know? The good news is although our staffing is not what it was pre-Katrina, our number of fires is down 250 percent from where it was just 12 years ago,” McConnell said.

Felton said the current situation is dangerous for the public and fire fighters.

McConnell said his personnel are well-trained and would not take unnecessary risks when fighting flames, no matter the size of the fire company.

"If we could hire and get our numbers, I'd like to have four on our pumps, but at this point we're doing okay,” McConnell said.

McConnell said the department is down 30 fire fighters, much lower than what Felton suggests. He admits there has not been a NOFD recruit class since 2011, but said he hopes the city’s personnel department begins testing people in the next couple of months.

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