Sugar Land firefighters say city staffing levels are too low

There can be a downside to growth.  Firefighters here say calls are up 50 percent since 2010, but the department hasn’t grown to meet the demand.  

The union wants to hire 25 more firefighters, which it says would cost each household about $53 more a year. Over a year ago, the union wrote a letter to a consulting group reading, in part, “Our personnel are understaffed on fire apparatus, which creates the possibility in the event of an emergency that not enough firefighters will be available to come to our customers’ aid when needed.”

The union is also opposed to what is called “cross-staffing”. That’s the practice of having a crew trained on both ambulance and fire apparatus at one station. They take whatever is needed for a particular call, which leaves the other one unstaffed and unable to respond to calls.

The city is in a financial bind right now.  It just had to cut the budget and raise property taxes, so money is scarce. Union president Tom Anderson says they’ve been working with the city to improve the situation.

"My primary concern is to make sure that citizens have adequate response from firefighters in your area, that we're not eliminating firefighters that are able to respond in a certain geographic area," says Anderson.

Sugar Land says the city is safe now and a study proves it. It issued a statement reading, in part, “Industry experts who conducted the assessment have made recommendations related to the deployment of resources, organizational structure, performance measures, community hazard inventory and other areas to ensure Sugar Land remains one of the safest cities in the country."