Lakeland (FL) Fire Rekindles Firefighters’ Overtime Dispute

A fire at a home in Kathleen north of Lakeland was knocked out in about 45 minutes this past Saturday, but what took place during those minutes could reignite an overtime battle brewing between Polk County and its firefighters, reports wtsp.com.

Saturday’s initial response to the fully involved house on Carlton Road was quick, but according to the fire union president Jay Schwartz, “Every truck that responded there was reduced down to two firefighters.”

The staffing, said Schwartz, is the result of a reduction to battle the county’s overtime crunch. When they called for backup, the closest fire truck was working a medical call. The next closest after that, he said, was a full 10 minutes away. 

“One of the biggest issues is that we ended up sending one of our firefighters to the hospital because everybody on that scene was having to work much harder than they normally would because they didn’t have the amount of manpower,” said Schwartz.

Schwartz had expressed concerns about just such a scenario weeks earlier in a letter to union members.

When we asked Assistant County Administrator Gary Hester about it two weeks ago, he showed 10 News a plan to address the half-million dollar overtime overage while promising firefighter and public safety would not be compromised.

“This does not have to do with our staffing levels,” Hester said on Tuesday of the incident this past Saturday.

Read more of the story here http://on.wtsp.com/1wHp8PK

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