PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — The city of Providence has hired a consulting firm to take a look at fire department staffing needs.
On Saturday, the city fell well below its mandatory minimum number of firefighters on duty in the city, now the City Council President Luis Aponte is stepping in.
“It seems to be a mutual escalation of sorts and it’s something that the city can’t, should not have to engage in at this time,” he says.
The fire union’s contract says 94 firefighters need to be on duty all the time.
The numbers fell below that threshold Saturday night and then again Sunday morning.
“As the result of the platoon change and some injuries, and vacation and other things, the department is down and it was not unforeseeable this would create some staffing challenges. I think the absence of a seasoned Fire Chief is contributing to this climate we find ourselves in,” adds Aponte.
“I applauded the city council for doing their due diligence. I think it’s unfortunate that the Elorza administration has made all of these changes without one single effort to conduct any study. Talk to any fire service expert,” says Providence Fire Union President Paul Doughty.
The Mayor says certain firefighters worked together to make sure the empty spots weren’t filled this weekend and that’s against state law.
“I’m calling the Mayor out right now. If he’s got evidence, put up or shut up,” adds Doughty. “I’m tired of the innuendos about the firefighters. If he has evidence, show it. As far as I’m concerned, he started this. He brought the fight to us and it’s just been magnified because of the mismanagement. Nobody knows what’s going on. No one had the clear directions. No one understood the impact of shifting to three shifts would yield.”
“I have not seen any evidence to suggest there was a coordination,” says Aponte. “Both sides have had a hand in this and I think both sides have a responsibility to end it.”
Public Safety Commissioner Steven Pare says he will prosecute anyone engaging in what he calls a coordinated work action.