Several Canton firefighters to lose their jobs due to budget restrictions

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CANTON, Ohio - Firefighters on Friday worked to extinguish a small fire inside a recycling plant where it could have easily become catastrophic, igniting over a thousand tons of paper, cardboard and plastics inside the plant.

"The bales were just starting to burn and there really wasn't much that got burned. They caught it before it got out of control," said Scott Slesnick, whose family owns the business.

"It saved our company today," said Slesnick praising the firefighters.

But with the city trying to reign in it's budget, the number of firefighters in Canton will be declining after April 29.

The firefighters union says with 145 firefighters and paramedics on staff, the department is already 30 below where it should be.

"I think around 175 is what we are most comfortable with. We were able to keep all of the stations open, all of our apparatuses fully staffed," said Union President Brian Garber.

At least four fire stations have already been closed.

The city had asked the firefighters union to make more than $190,000 of concessions or face 10 layoffs.

Garber says after already making several concessions in recent years the union this time said 'no.'

"This is a position we have been put in several times over the last 8-9 years and the membership feels that we could no longer continue to support the city overspending their money. If they over spend their money the membership no longer wants to foot the bill for it," said Garber.

The layoff notices were issued on Thursday.

Along with the layoffs, Fire Chief Tom Garra says the city will also have to close fire station number 2.

"It's pretty bad because we have a situation here where we are well below our manpower strength and with that it puts the firefighters at risk, the citizens at risk. And I know the city is hurting economically and the mayor is doing his best to cut back on all facets of the operations, but the fact is that it is risky out there now," said Garra.

Garra says as of Friday he had applied for a federal 'safer' grant that would allow the city to get the ten firefighters back for two years if it agrees to take on their salary after those two years are over.

There are no guarantees.

City offices were closed on Friday so efforts to reach city officials about their budget were unsuccessful.

"They want to do the best they can to provide fire and police protection, the problem is you have to have money to do it and they are facing a real budget crunch. Eventually we are going to get it turned around but in the meantime we all have to buck up to the problem that we face," said Garra.

In the meantime he says the city's firefighters and paramedics who remain on the job will be as committed as ever to do their jobs well.​

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