About 1,000 Philadelphia firefighters and union supporters from the local chapter of the AFL-CIO marched around City Hall at noon today to protest Mayor Nutter's plans to eliminate five fire engines and two ladder trucks as part of his budget cuts. The crowd chanted "no mayor, no!" and carried signs, as well as a coffin.
The Fire Department cuts are part of Nutter's plans to fix a more than $1 billion shortfall in the city's five-year financial plan. After the closures, the city will have 56 engine companies and 27 ladder companies. No fire stations are being closed and no firefighters will be laid off through the restructuring, but some will be reassigned and current vacancies won't be filled.
Brian McBride, president of Local 22 of the International Association of Firefighters, mocked Nutter for taking a day trip to Harrisburg instead of attending today's rally. He repeatedly said the budget cuts will endanger the lives of firefighters and city residents. "What kind of city would risk the lives of firefighters for a few measly dollars?" McBride asked.
Harold Schaitberger, the IAFF general president, recalled that Nutter, as a member of City Council, had opposed fire department cuts during then-Mayor John Street's second term. He derided a study done by the Fire Department of how to eliminate fire equipment in the city. "This study is crap," Schaitberger said, holding it aloft.
Councilman Frank Rizzo and Bill Green, two of the most vocal critics of Nutter's proposed cuts, also showed up to offer support. Rizzo promised to stop the Fire Department cuts while Green also attacked the study. "It's nonsense," Green shouted. "We need a professional study."