Wichita Falls Fire Chief Will Propose Restructuring Plan

The Wichita Falls Fire Department may be expecting some big changes in the near future.  Fire Chief Earl Foster is planning to propose a restructuring plan at Tuesday's Wichita Falls City Council meeting.

Fire Chief Foster says the proposed plan will save money and enhance the safety of firefighters and the public, but not everyone is happy about the plan.

Wichita Falls Firefighters Association President, Bobby Whitely, who represents approximately the 160 Wichita Falls firefighters, says the budget savings do not justify public safety.

Whitely feels firefighters need more questions answered before the plan goes any further..

Chief Foster is taking his proposed plan to the City Council to get things moving and he says his plan is a good solid plan. He says it is a plan that other fire departments are using.

The plan is called the restructuring proposal and in it the Chief wants to stress that no firefighters will lose their jobs.  But, the plan as a whole will eliminate 12 ranking positions through attrition, saving the fire budget around $125,000 a year.

The other component to the plan would be complying with the "Two In Two Out" mandate, saying that at the scene of a fire, four firefighters are needed, two that can go inside the structure and fight the fire, and two outside on standby.  Right now, the Wichita Falls Fire Department only rides three men on a truck.

Making things more efficient means going from 13 to 11 fire trucks. Bobby Whitely, President of the Wichita Falls Firefighter Association, says this is the part of the plan he does not agree with and this is what he thinks is a public safety issue.

He says under the plan taking away two trucks will force having to out source to other stations when one certain station is down a truck. Whitely says this means it will take even more time for the fire truck to get to the scene.

Chief Foster says this is nothing different than what happens now. Foster says on average the Wichita Falls Fire Department takes around 9,000 emergency calls a year, and only 12% of those calls are out sourced to other fire stations because a truck was not available at that time.

If the plan goes as follows, Wichita Falls Fire Station 8 and 2 will be seeing the most changes.  Station 8 will only have 1 fire quint, a smaller fire truck to work with, and some of the personnel at station 2 will be moved to other departments.

City council members will meet Tuesday at 8:30am at Council Chambers in Memorial Auditorium to discuss the restructuring proposal.

Natalie Garcia,  Newschannel 6