The Del City Fire Department announced the immediate closure of Station 2 on Southeast 44th Street Monday, due to a severe manpower shortage.
All the firefighters and engines will now operate from Station 1 on Southeast 15th Street, but even after bringing everyone together in one place, manpower for the department is only at the bare minimum.
Del City Fire Station 2 sits vacant with an unknown future, but it may soon become a storage unit.
Chief Jim Hock calls his department's dilemma the "perfect storm." Between retirements, firefighters leaving for other departments and budget constraints, the few people who remain have fewer years on the job.
“We need to bring everybody to one station so that we have people with experience to help the ones that do not have that experience, and to get by,” says Hock.
Even with consolidation, Del City fire will only be able to operate three six-man shifts, as opposed to the standard three ten-man shifts. Neighboring departments provide assistance, but local union president Steve Fernandez says the firefighters are saddened to leave the south edge of the city further from help.
“It’s going to make it a little bit more dangerous leaving a community like that unprotected, unsafe and vulnerable,” Fernandez says.
Due to Station 1's central location, though, Hock says their response will not be much longer than it would be from Station 2, although every second counts in a fire fight.
“We’re on the scene within five and a half minutes from the time they call,” says Hock.
Right now, construction is underway on a brand new taxpayer-funded fire station on Southeast 28th Street, but without firefighters to fill both it and Station 1, the dilemma continues.
Fernandez say recruiting has to be a top priority.
“We are a very busy department,” he says. “We run over 3,500 calls a year, so it’s not a bed and breakfast community. It’s a good, well-populated city.”
The fire department is currently hiring, although the chief does not know how many firefighters the city will allow him to bring on staff. Applications are due this Friday. To learn more, click here.