Killeen benches firefighters and ambulance during storms

Fire department required to cut back on overtime due to yearly budget.

KILLEEN - Update: Killeen provided a statement after publication. The city's entire comment has been added to the story.

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The City of Killeen was operating with fewer first responders Sunday -- a day they could use them most.

To reduce its $8 million budget shortfall for fiscal year 2017, Killeen developed a tiered staffing reduction plan last year to limit overtime for firefighters. The plan went into full effect Sunday at 7:00 a.m., as storms were picking up in Central Texas.

The staffing change reduced the number of firefighters with two ladder companies from four to three. A rescue company saw staffing reduced from three to two. And, Medic 22 (ambulance) was taken out of service completely. Three of those apparatuses -- including the ambulance and rescue company -- serve downtown Killeen, where the highest volume of 911 calls occur.

As the plan currently stands, the reductions will be in effect until 7 a.m. Monday -- after the severe weather passes. The Killeen Professional Firefighters' Association called the city's actions unacceptable and urged Killeen to find an alternative solution for cutting costs.

"Typically, there are more EMS and Fire calls on days with severe weather because of high winds and road conditions," Local 2505 President Marc Clifford told Channel 6. "But, no day is a good day to be without an ambulance in Killeen. Bad weather compounds the problem."

Channel 6 left a message for City Spokesperson Hilary Shine Sunday morning. She responded with an email Sunday afternoon, reaffirming eight ambulances were still in service Sunday and adding some first responders called in sick.

"In working to balance the Fiscal Year 2017 budget, an overtime reduction program was put into place in the Fire Department. Due to a number of personnel calling in sick this morning, the program was implemented for today's shift. The result of this action was one of two ambulances at Central Fire Station being taken out of service. Eight of nine ambulances remain in service today. All fire engines and ladder trucks are in service. There were no widespread incidents caused by today's weather, but had there been, the Fire Department would have utilized its general alarm call system to bring more personnel in to respond." - City Spokesperson Hilary Shine

Clifford said he wants a better solution found.

"We're hoping that citizens reach out to their council members, whoever they may be, and let them know that public safety is a place where overtime needs to be accepted because we deal with issues that impact peoples' lives and safety," Clifford said.

© 2017 KCEN-TV


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