Kenney ends Philly Fire Department brownouts

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 With City Controller Alan Butkovitz, left, and acting Fire Commissioner Derrick Sawyer at his side, Mayor Jim Kenney Thursday formally announces the end of the brownout policy for city fire stations. (Tom MacDonald/WHYY)

With City Controller Alan Butkovitz, left, and acting Fire Commissioner Derrick Sawyer at his side, Mayor Jim Kenney Thursday formally announces the end of the brownout policy for city fire stations. (Tom MacDonald/WHYY)

Mayor Jim Kenney is making good on some campaign promises — to the delight of a major Philadelphia union — as he ends firehouse brownouts.

Former Mayor Michael Nutter instituted the policy of closing firehouses temporarily on a rotating basis to save money. Nearby fire stations were expected to cover for the browned-out firehouses.

During his campaign, Kenney vowed to end the controversial policy — and Thursday he announced that he’s officially made good on that promise.

“I know firsthand the sacrifices the firefighters and their families make to keep all of us safe every day.  They do exemplary work under difficult conditions,” he said. “As we were all reminded a few weeks ago when they successfully tackled a four-alarm fire near Rittenhouse Square in freezing temperatures.”

Acting Fire Commissioner Derrick Sawyer, who is carrying out Kenney’s order, said an additional sore spot for the firefighters is being remedied.”There also won’t be any forced rotations for 2016, that process ended the end of December along with brownouts,” Sawyer said.

Andy Thomas, who leads the Philadelphia Firefighters and Paramedics Union, said he has gratified that Kenney kept his word.”The response times for fire engine companies or fire ladder companies, [ending the brownouts] makes it better,” Thomas said. “When you have a browned-out company, you have to travel a longer distance, so there’s always a potential for an accident. We don’t want to see our members or the public hurt in any manner.”

City Controller Alan Butkovitz, who studied the effectiveness of the policy, complimented Kenney on his decision. “The new mayor and the new administration have demonstrated very quickly that they have an understanding of the burdens and risks facing the public who are in the line of attack in a fire,” Butkovitz said. What’s more, Butkovitz said, instead of saving money, the brownouts actually cost the city more money in overtime.

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