Since a new chief was sworn into office in May, the Mobile Fire-Rescue Department has stopped the practice of routinely shutting down fire stations or trucks, also known as brownouts. Chief Mark Sealy said he was able to stop the practice while maintaining the department’s budget by moving “eight or so” firefighters from administrative positions back to trucks.
“I asked guys on trucks to do more with less,” he said. “We reorganized the entire department. We restructured it from the top down.”
Sealy’s administration looked at everything with efficiency in mind and has consolidated some higher-level positions within the fire code and EMS divisions.
“The most important thing is response,” he said. “Everything else is support. We took support jobs and put them on trucks.”
The move appeases the local firefighters’ union, which for months has argued against the brownouts. Union President Matt Waltman said while there are still concerns over staffing shortages, the union sees a new direction.
“Things are looking up,” he said.
The staffing issues Waltman referenced, especially “riding short” — where there aren’t enough firefighters to fully staff a truck — is something that will be fixed over time, he said.
“The ranks are depleted,” Waltman said. “Fortunately, we have enough to keep all trucks on duty in all three shifts.”
One station that was shut down under a recent budget crunch after a raise was announced was near the now abandoned Josephine Allen Homes. Sealy said the station is now open and operating.