Chicago Fire Commissioner Defends Overtime and Response Times

As Chicago Fire Department officials faced questions from aldermen about next year's budget, they were defending overtime spending, and clarifying the department's response time to emergency calls, reports CBS Chicago.

WBBM Newsradio Political Editor Craig Dellimore reports the Fire Department could spend up to $43 million on overtime costs this year, more than double the budgeted $20 million layout.

The department currently has about 4,700 employees -- including uniformed firefighters and civilian workers -- short of the estimated 5,100 considered full strength.

Fire Commissioner Jose Santiago said lawsuits over hiring practices have been to blame.

"There was a series of legal issues that the Fire Department had to work through with the Law Department on, that actually effectively stopped us from hiring. The city of Chicago could not hire firefighters. These legal issues stopped that. We have resolved these issues," he said.

Though he did not provide specifics on the "legal issues," sources confirmed they were lawsuits tied to department hiring.

Santiago said he was expecting a class of 150 new recruits at the fire academy starting Nov. 18.

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