Layoffs Unknown Territory for Lansing Fire

By: Sherene Tagharobi Email
By: Sherene Tagharobi Email

It won't be easy for Lansing firefighters to say goodbye to their 11 least senior members.

"These are 11 members of our family that are getting put out of a job. It's going to impact their households, their families, some had just had babies, some are expecting children. They have mortgages," said Firefighter Eric Webber, who is also public information officer for LFD.

It's all because of budget cuts, and it could have been worse. Originally 68 of them got layoff notices. Half of them took demotions, and then, to save 23 positions, they made concessions.

"Our members now pay 15 percent of their health care," said Bryan Epling, president of firefighters' union local 421. "We agreed to pay more out of compensation for each member in our pension system."

The 21 percent staffing reduction comes into play 7:30 a.m. on July 1, also when stations five and seven close, and four of 12 rigs are taken out of service. Bad news with up to five percent more EMS calls every year.

"We have multiple calls going on at the same time. If you were to have an accident, trucks and medic units get tied up, then we get a house fire," said Chief Tom Cochran.

"This will directly impact our response times," said Webber.

The decision to close two stations came after a GIS mapping study. The idea is if you have to close two stations, shutting down numbers five and seven would have the least impact on coverage.

"We will have to work harder with fewer boots on the ground," said Webber.

The unprecented layoffs mean an unprecedented low in morale.

"The day you walk through that job you think you have security and that's changed now, that's what's hard," said Webber.

With any luck, it'll eventually change back.

The department hopes to eventually rehire those about to lose their jobs. The plan is to do so through atrition and by applpying for grant money.


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