Illinois firefighters concerned about budget cuts

PEORIA, Ill. (AP) — Central Illinois firefighters are concerned that budget cuts will put the public at risk.

Peoria’s budget plan calls for a rescue engine to be shut down temporarily more than 40 times through July 31, said Ryan Brady, president of Firefighters Local 50. The unit has special equipment, including tools to extract people from car wrecks.

“We understand the financial situations the city is facing. However, to rely on the Fire Department, now we are taking about specifically not being able to operate a paid professional fire department for the amount budgeted,” Brady said.

Brady said the department’s ability to respond to an emergency is stretched with the loss of the vehicle and nine firefighter positions. Those slots remain open because Peoria can’t hire recruits. Overtime is being used to cover the staff shortage.

“We’re trying to fill positions in the fire department as quickly as we can,” City Manager Patrick Urich said.

Urich said Peoria is behind on first-quarter financial projections and struggling to cover a $5.5 million shortfall in last year’s budget.

“The reality is not good,” he said. “Revenues are not coming in as anticipated, plus you have the state holding back (sales tax) revenue.”