The Minneapolis Fire Department isn’t adequately staffed and can’t cover the costs of “increasing sick-time usage, injury rates and overtime,” according to a report by a public safety consulting firm the city hired to analyze persistent staffing woes.
The conclusions reached by Emergency Services Consulting International largely mirror problems uncovered during an internal assessment completed in April. Both studies showed that fire department staffing levels have fallen consistently since 2001.
Last year, the mayor and City Council voted to cut 10 firefighters to balance the municipal budget. After citizens and firefighters complained, the city agreed to six cuts, which were later rescinded when Minneapolis secured a federal grant to pay the firefighters.
City standards call for 96 firefighters to be on duty at all times, but the department can usually count on just 92. In July, Fire Chief John Freutel told the City Council he wants to hire 30 more firefighters by 2017.
The reduced staffing has resulted in longer response times, something Freutel said he hopes the additional hires will help.
The increased manpower would also cut the department’s overtime costs, which exceeded $1 million last year.