by: Lou Angeli
Wilmington, DE (May, 7, 2012) -- A court appointed arbitrator has ruled that the City of Wilmington violated its contract with the city's firefighters when the Fire Department introduced the Squad Concept on January 1, 2011. At that time, the Fire Department disbanded Rescue Company #1 and reassigned its officers and firefighters to 2 newly formed Squad Companies, which operated with just 2 firefighters during technical rescue responses.
According to IAFF Local 1590 President Craig Black, the city must "restructure its staffing to meet the four firefighter requirement." How the department's administration will respond to the arbitrator's decision is yet to be seen.
Potential scenarios include re-establishing Rescue Company #1 as a full time, dedicated rescue unit which responds to rescue incidents as well as structural fires in the city. However, in order to establish a new Rescue-1, some believe that Mayor James Baker's office will permanently close an Engine Company in retaliation for the firefighters' union win.
The most likely scenario would be to permanently disband one of three Engine Companies which have been part of the controversial "rolling bypass" program. "Rolling Bypass" shuts down a neighborhood engine company for 24 hours (Squrt 4, Engine 5 or Engine 6) each day of the week.
In light of the fact that a multi-million dollar fire station is currently being built to house Engine-5 and its crews, the Trolley Square/40 Acres company will likely remain untouched. Closing Engine 6 would imperil residents in a large section of West Wilmington, especially neighborhoods west of Union Street.
Taking out Squrt 4 would eliminate the first due engine to Center City Wilmington.
It has been one month since the arbitrator's ruling and its not known if the administration and firefighters' union have had discussions. It is unlikely that Local 1590 would amend the section of the contract dealing with four-person minimum staffing. Any changes to that section of agreement would open the way for the city to operate with only 2 firefighters aboard each fire apparatus.
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