Firefighters union outraged over proposal to cut station

With a $9.3 million budget gap, Fire Station 11 is on the chopping block.  Those living in Airpark and the firefighters union both say closing it could be a matter of public safety. 

It was just Monday night when station 11 was called to a fire at Slick's Bar in Airpark.  Firefighters were able to contain the blaze, only leaving the bar's sign and few shingles burned.  Next door at Hair Textures Salon, employees say the proposal to get rid of station 11 would have not only left the bar destroyed but most likely, the salon as well.  Owner Stacie Dawkins says, “It would have taken out the plaza here and I would have lost my business.  I would have been devastated to lose the business that I built up and if they wouldn't have responded that quickly, I wouldn't have had a business to come back to.”

Mayor Chris Beutler says the reason he proposed closing the Airpark station is because it averages less then one call a day.  That's compared to close to 7,000 a year at station one.

Dave Engler from the Lincoln Firefighters Union says location is everything and that Airpark is basically out on its own island. “This is not about productivity. but it is about response time and if we take that fire station out, the response times will be so inadequate that we are just letting out citizens go out there.”

Station 11 sits just west of the airport.  The next closest station is number 13, near West A and Coding.  Angler says taking away Station 11 would put the average response time to Airpark in the eight to10 minute range…versus the current two to four minutes.

Public Safety Director Tom Assay says during tough economic times, the city has to make tough decisions.  “When you're failing to keep up with Lincoln's population and a huge budget deficit that has to be filled, you have to make tough decisions and this is one of those decisions.”