LORAIN, Ohio-- Nearly two dozen Lorain firefighters received layoff notices Friday, which means about a third of the city’s department could be let go after July 1.
"Twenty-three firefighters is a lot; it's an extreme amount. It's something that we are not relishing doing," said Dan Given, Lorain’s director of public safety and service.
Given said the city is still reeling from an economic downturn and earlier this year lost revenue when Republic Steel idled its plant.
He said the city actually delayed sending the notices while they discussed alternatives with the firefighters' union, but no success.
"A third of the department is a bit much; that's too difficult to swallow. The reality is, the best case scenario if that occurs is that we'll have two stations open with two engines and one truck," said assistant chief Roy Cochran.
Cochran said even with current four stations and 72 firefighters, they often need help. Thursday, they responded to a fire at an apartment building on East 28th Street and needed to ask a neighboring community for help.
"The city of Elyria sent their tower over to assist; ultimately, by the end of the fire, we had two towers from other cities and two other engines. That's before any cutbacks," said Cochran.
"It's dangerous; I mean, a lot of people will probably lose their lives, but last night, it was a pretty bad fire," said Lorain resident, Jeanna Geiger, who lives next to the building that caught fire.
"Some people say 'ah, we don't need all them firemen' you know. I say, 'oh yea we do.' There's a lot of Lorain to cover and run short that's not good; that's not good at all," said Lorain resident, Peter Topaloff.
The city of Lorain has applied for a federal grant that's given to economically-depressed cities. If they receive it, the 23 firefighters can keep their jobs.
"We told them that if we did not receive the grant, we would be forced to lay off X number of employees, which is where we're at right now," said Given.
Director Given said the city hopes to hear whether they received the grant by July 1.
Assistant chief Cochran said he fears if the layoffs happen, that the younger firefighters will be laid off, leaving the older ones to do much of the heavy lifting.
He also reminds the public, that in addition to putting out fires, firefighters are also needed for things like car accidents and other emergencies.