NEW BEDFORD, Mass. (WPRI) ─ The New Bedford Fire Department announced it is finally ending its blackout policy, but at the cost of closing one of its stations.
The blackout policy, which took one station out of service on a rotating basis, has been a point of contention between the city and the firefighters union.
New Bedford Fire Chief Paul Coderre said the blackout policy will no longer be in effect starting in March.
Mayor Jon Mitchell recommended the closure of one of the departments 10 stations because the city does not have the financial means to support all of the stations.
Ultimately, Coderre said the department will decommission Station 11 on Brock Avenue, and all of those assigned to the station will be redeployed to other fire companies.
Coderre said the closure of Station 11 will not impact response times since most of its coverage overlaps with Station 6. He said with the elimination of blackouts, the department will reduce overtime costs by $400,000 to $500,000.
In response to the announcement, Local 841 issued a statement saying the closure of Station 11 will remove “the first line of defense to any emergency south of Cove Street.”
“In just the last few months, the city has suffered two fatal fires in situations where the first engine capable of responding, which was a station just a few blocks away, was blacked out,” the union said.
The union argues the closure of the station will lead to an overextension of coverage areas for the remaining apparatus.
“The administration has essentially put a price tag on the safety and well being of its citizens,” the union said. “It is not necessary to choose proper staffing or public safety. Proper staffing = public safety.”