Cincinnati Fire Dept still dealing with brownouts

Nov 29, 2012

On any given day five Cincinnati fire trucks aren't in service because there's not enough personnel to man them.  That's what's called a brownout.  

Fire Chief Richard Braun told a Council committee this week the problem is only getting worse with an increasing number of retirements.

“One retirement can cause one brownout because our minimum staffing is four,” Braun said.  “So as soon as we drop down to three, then that piece of equipment is taken out of service.”

The fire department is using overtime funding to keep some equipment in service.  If it didn't, there would be ten fire trucks not running instead of five, which is about a fourth of the city's fleet.  

The department is authorized to have 841 firefighters, but right now that number is at about 760.  

A new recruit class is scheduled to graduate in April and officials are pushing for another one next year.  

Braun said the city is in his words fortunate and lucky the brownouts haven't led to deadly consequences.

He referenced a fire earlier this year on Gilbert Avenue where the department saved 20 people as a result of truck passing by from an earlier run.

“If they hadn’t of been there we may have lost some of those people because they were going back to their station,” Braun said.  “The truck company that was assigned to that area was browned out that day.  It was just by God’s good grace that we happened to have a truck company go by at two in the morning coming back from another run.”

The city has applied for a federal grant to help offset the salaries of another recruit class for two-years.  It received similar funding this year for the firefighters currently in training.