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December 16, 2015

Controller says Philly Fire Department's response times poor thanks to 'brownouts'

Butkovitz blames Nutter's 2010 policy that shuts down companies

Reports Fire Department
Philadelphia Fire Department Matt Rourke/AP Photo

Firefighters battle a of fire Monday, Dec. 10, 2012, in Philadelphia.

City Controller Alan Butkovitz says the Philadelphia Fire Department's response time has suffered dramatically after Mayor Michael Nutter's "brownout" policy took effect five years ago.

In a report released Wednesday, Butkovitz claims that since 2010, 44,522 fire emergencies were not responded to with a fire engine within the national standard of 5 minutes and 20 seconds, a significant increase from previous years.

Butkovitz blames the mayor's decision to temporarily shut down three fire companies each week. It was implemented in a cash-saving effort to cut overtime hours during his first term.

The number of fires that were not responded to within the national standard time has jumped following the policy, according to Butkovitz. The increase can be seen below in a chart provided in the report:

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“The evidence is clear that closing firehouses on a weekly basis has weakened public safety in our city,” Butkovitz said in a news release accompanying the report. “It takes longer for another engine further away to respond when the nearest fire house is closed.”

The findings released Wednesday are preliminary as a full audit is expected to be released in the coming weeks. The report includes a letter to Mayor-elect Jim Kenney's office, urging him to review the findings.

A spokesperson for Kenney told Philly.com that he agrees more resources need to be given to the department and supports ending brownouts.

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