EAST PROVIDENCE — East Providence Fire Department Chief Oscar Elmasian will soon recommend the activation of a fourth emergency services vehicle to be housed at Station 3 in the Rumford section of the city.
Chief Elmasian made the announcement while a discussion was taking place about his department during an overall review of the proposed Fiscal Year 2016-17 budget at the Tuesday, Oct. 4, city council meeting.
Currently, as per minimum manning parameters negotiated between the city and the firefighters union, 26 fire personnel are on duty each shift: one battalion chief, crews for five engines, two ladder trucks and three rescue vehicles. Those three rescues are located at Station 1 on Broadway, Station 2 in Riverside on Bullocks Point Avenue and Station 4 in Kent Heights on Wampanoag Trail. Station 3 is the only barracks in the city without a permanent emergency services vehicle on location.
Chief Elmasian told the council last Tuesday he started an inquiry about the possible need for a fourth rescue to be placed at Station 3 with former city manager Richard Kirby. An ESV was active there during the month of August, Mondays through Fridays during what the chief termed the "peak demand time" of 7:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.
"There is a need for a fourth rescue," Chief Elmasian said. "I will be making my recommendation to the city manager to put a fourth rescue in service."
The chief and acting city manager Tim Chapman each acknowledged discussion on the matter has taken place. Chief Elmasian said based on the call volume and drop in need to call for mutual aid from other department, it was likely to make the most financial sense to activate the fourth rescue. He later said he would not know the exact financials pertaining to the cost of putting the vehicle into service until, among other things, billing for August is completed.
The chief was, in part, responding to past questions about why there wasn't an ESV located in Rumford. Specifically, local resident Dan Landry had raised the issue at multiple previous council meetings.
Last week, Mr. Landry again challenged aspects of fire department services. The overarching discussion about the budget on October 4 centered on how the city could supply an additional $1 million to support a request from the school department. Mr. Landry pointed to the line item of over $2 million earmarked for fire department overtime and asked if the money for the schools couldn't be taken from it.
Chief Elmasian engaged Mr. Landry in a passionate defense of his proposed FY16-17 budget. He said the overtime figures are based on a number of aspects including vacation and sick time as a well as federal family leave guidelines and long-term injury. In contrast, the chief said for the first time in recent memory, the department is headed towards a surplus, having generated several hundreds of thousands of dollars in structural savings.
"I will not sacrifice the safety of my people and I will not sacrifice the safety of the great people of this city," the chief said. He added, the department administration in concert with firefighters has done a "very good job" of curtailing overtime expenditures, continuing, he has "great employees" who have "really stepped up to the plate."