A proposal to close firefighting operations out of a West Burbank station for nine months will allow the fire department to meet its 5% spending cut, but Chief Ray Krakowski warned that emergency response times will be affected citywide.
Under the plan, crews housed at Station 14 at 2305 W. Burbank Blvd. would be split among other stations, saving the department more than $650,000, according to Krakowski, who said the shut down could happen as early as July.
Krakowski presented the scenario to the City Council as a cost-saving measure to contribute to the target 5% budget cut called for among all city departments.
The City Council is working to bridge an $8.7-million deficit projected for next fiscal year.
“If we need to meet the 5% reduction, the shutdown will definitely happen,” Krakowski said.
Fire personnel would still be posted at Station 14 for administrative and other non-emergency response duties.
John Keshishian, owner of Great American Auto Center just blocks from Station 14, said he was surprised by the proposed closure and disagreed with the potential move.
“It’s important that there’s a fire station, particularly in my line of business with the chemicals, the welding and all that,” he said. “I didn’t expect Burbank to be on such a tight budget.”
At the Montessori Children’s Acadamie one block from the station, school administrator Nina Koulax, 63, said she does not want to see the station close.
“I realize budget cuts are mandating that, but that’s our fire season,” she said of the summer months that coincide with the proposed closing.
Krakowski’s overall $1.25-million budget cutting proposal would reduce daily staffing levels to 36 and use savings from vehicle replacement and maintenance funds, in addition to the Station 14 plan.
The department does not plan to issue pink slips to employees, pending a decision that is expected later this month on whether the City Council will once again tap the stabilization fund to maintain staffing levels.
The plan wasn’t dismissed outright by the City Council, but Mayor Jess Talamantes — a 32-year member of the department — joined his colleagues in asking for more options.
“Would you prefer more men with less rigs, or less rigs with more men?” Talamantes said.
Last year, the chief proposed eliminating three firefighter positions, but those were saved using $440,000 from the city’s stabilization fund.
“We purposely hired a little bit light this year,” Krawkoski said.
The Fire Department was authorized to hire 10 recruits, but started the academy with just seven, he said.
“It didn’t seem fair to hire anyone that could lose their job in eight to nine months,” Krakowski added.
One potential hire has left since the start of the academy, dropping the number to six.
Engine 14 was chosen out of the city’s five stations because the area could be easily accessed by the surrounding stations, Krakowski said.
Still, the loss of a fire station will add to response times citywide, although Krakowski would not say by how much. The average response time for fire personnel is currently at 4 minutes, 20 seconds.
“We will definitely lose some efficiency,” Krakowski said. “You are sending a very large piece of equipment to do other jobs.”