Council to Discuss Firefighter Staffing Change Tuesday

The Corpus Christi City Council is expected to see another big turnout for Tuesday's second reading of a proposed firefighter staffing change.

The plan calls for taking firefighters from under-utilized stations to help staff two new EMS units.

It's a matter of logistics -- putting manpower where manpower is needed the most. Corpus Christi Fire Chief Robert Rocha said that, because he only has a finite amount of funding to work with, he has opted to move personnel around.

"80-percent of the calls that we run are medical calls," Rocha said, adding that the number of calls from 2011-2012 went up by 10-percent.

Right now, the Fire Union says we are short 40 firefighters, and according to a national study, we do not have enough ambulances. With a population of more than 300,000 people, Corpus Christi is supposed to have 11 ambulances, but we actually have nine EMS units for 18 fire stations, translating to one ambulance for every 34,000 people.

"And with that, I've got a great amount of calls being handled by a small proportion of firefighters," Rocha said. "And what I need to do, if I am unable to get more firefighters approved, is to place the current firefighters that I have and put them in situations and circumstances in which they can address our ambulance shortage."

Each fire engine is currently manned by four firefighters, but some have only three. The proposal being recommended by the fire chief would cut the number to three for all engines.

"Ideally, you want to be able to have a full four-man crew," Councilman Chad Magill said. "Two in, two out, is very important. And any step from two in, two out, is headed in the wrong direction."

Because of that, Magill says the decision should be delayed.

"The best course of action would be to wait until the next academy graduates, when your net effect is you've got more firefighters or more EMS personnel to work with," Magill said.

One graduating class of about 30 firefighters is set to walk the stage in December, followed by another graduating academy next April. The re-staff proposal is set to take place Aug. 1.


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