We have been seeing more and more communities trying different efforts to cut the money they are spend while not affecting the service they provide.
I would say that is a huge misnomer, perpetuated by elected officials, paid consultants, uninformed chiefs, and people with a gripe against any type of tax based service.
The reality is that when making cuts service DOES absolutely get affected. If you drop staffing, it means more apparatus now have to respond to a "bread and butter" room and contents fire, thus leaving areas unprotected. If you do brownouts, you still leave a bigger area unprotected and still will take more on duty rigs longer to respond and more to respond as well, thus leaving more area unprotected. If relying on a MABAS agreement, then the more times it is used, the more other communities find their services being used for other places, thus leaving their community less protected.
Without regards to staffing, look at equipment. I believe a TIC has shown its place in the fire service, but many places can't afford them, despite costs dropping for them over the years. Radios are another lifesaver and should be available for every riding position, yet we still see places without such benefit, as well as outdated radio systems still being used. PPE, is another area where it should be replaced at regular intervals, but with budget cuts, you may see more and more FF's wearing older and perhaps questionable gear.
The realities are that the fire service as a whole, has worked to "make do" with the hands they are dealt. The problem is that the fire service as a whole, has managed to "make do" for quite sometime after such cuts and bean counters and opponents point fingers as though it is proof that such cuts could be made.
Let's not forget the strides in fire prevention education, the focus on smoke alrams, and even sprinklers etc, that have limited fires and so forth. Yet, the fire service has also broadened its service level too with EMS, special rescue, etc. So while the typical comment from bean counters is "less fires" the reality is that cuts impact other services and service levels.
In the end, what we see today is the fire service cut so drastically that there is no longer a way you can keep cutting WITHOUT affecting services. Today we see challenges not faced many years ago, we see lightweight construction, energy efficiencies, etc that retain heat and structures weaken so much faster. This means the best way to limit loss is to get there quickly with enough people to control the fire before there is loss. Standing outside and watching because you don't have enough resources doesn't bode well for the fire service mission of protecting lives and property either.
We are seeing the effects of budget cuts truly having a negative impact today, moreso than years past, we see where brownouts have led to fire and life losses. We have seen larger fires because of less resources. We have seen mutual aid used so often that communities are tired of seeing their resources go next door and so forth. There really is no more good ways to reduce costs without affecting services, anyone who says that you can is either an idiot, clueless, or a biased moron.
My department has increased our automatic aid responses with our neighboring departments as an attempt to get more personnel on scene. We all have to finally accept the fact that we cannot operate alone anymore. We need our neighbors just as much as our neighbors need us. Along with the automatic responses, we have also began training together as well and really relying on one another. It's hard because of all of our egos, but we have to make this work no matter what not just for the public's safety but for our own.
Although, let's not forget the realities of using automatic aid or even mutaul aid, when it takes more resources from elsewhere, it leaves that place now unprotected....and for the most part, even longer than if staffing was taken more serious by bean counters.
Yes, we can increase MABAS, or automatic aid and then train more, work more and so forth, but in the end, the end result remains we are still using other resources and further leaving gaps. Fine and dandy if you are talking of a structure fire now and then approach, but now couple that single incident with subsequent incidents and then the issue comes to light moreso.
In a recent example in my city we had a structure fire which utilized 3 pumps of 4, a truck of 3, TWO ambulances of 2, and a batt of one. The reason it took 2 ambos was the first in was tied to fire duties and the second ended up treating and transporting a victim. Out of a city with 44 on duty staff, 20 were tied up on this fire.....yet at the same time resources were on scene there were 4 more other calls for service in the city. Those other calls were mitigated, but the reality is when staffing keeps being reduced it means those other calls in service thus gets reduced. It doesn't mean squat if your next resource is coming from a MABAS dept and has a response time of 10 minutes, the reality is that service level has been reduced and it is absolute bullshit for anyone to sit back and say they can cut and that the cuts don't affect service. That is a load of crap!