Area firefighter union members express concern over proposed changes by the city

EAU CLAIRE, Wis. (WEAU) -- “You want to make sure that everyone is protected equally in the city of Eau Claire,” says Local 487 member, Karl Johnson.

Local 487, or Professional Firefighters of Eau Claire, are expressing concern about a change proposed by city leaders. Within the upcoming 2018 budget, a fourth ambulance would be added to station 6, which is located on the southeast side of Eau Claire.

“Anytime station 6 will be out on the call, so on an EMS call with the ambulance, that means the fire apparatus will be left in station unstaffed,” says Johnson.

The proposal is leaving union members concerned about a reduction in fire protection.

Friday and Saturday, firefighters are going door-to-door to explain how the proposed changes would impact the people in the area.

Eau Claire Fire Chief, Christian Bell says EMS calls throughout the city and county are increasing, that's why they're proposing the additional ambulance. Right now he says the proposal is the best way to maintain or improve services with the staff they already have.

“Right now, emergency services, EMS, accounts for 85 percent of the calls that we go on,” says Bell. “So an example would be, in just station 6’s area alone, of the 1300 calls that station has within this district, 1,050 of those calls are emergencies that require an ambulance.”

Union members are still expressing the need for staff to cover both EMS and fire services at station 6, something Bell says is dependent on the budget that will head to the city council next week.

“The overall goal is to at least maintain and improve the level of service that we have,” says Bell. “If we have the budget to allow, we would add additional staff.”

“If there were circumstances that arose within that timeframe that would indicate that we would need additional staff, certainly during the budget process next year, that could be accounted for and taken care of,” says city councilman, David Klinkhammer.

Union members say they encourage members of the community to attend the public discussion at the city council meeting on Monday. The council is set to vote on the 2018 budget on Tuesday.

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