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Firefighters want more staff, faster response after death

One year after Wolterman's death, it still hurts
Posted at 11:56 AM, Dec 06, 2019

Firefighters and their families asked an Ohio city council for more staff members to improve emergency response times.

When Hamilton firefighter Patrick Wolterman was killed in a 2015 arson blaze, it took 45 minutes for a safety officer to arrive at the scene, according to a report released in March.

To improve response times for firefighter and public safety, a fourth emergency squad ambulance is needed, Local 20 union President Tony Harris told the Hamilton City Council at a meeting Wednesday.

Most urgent calls for help occur in the first 11 or 12 minutes, but safety officers aren't arriving for 30 to 40 minutes, “long after the most dangerous part of our scene is over,” Harris said.

Harris told the council that despite cuts to staff in 2013, city fire forces are handling 3,000 more emergency runs a year, or roughly 15,000 runs annually.

Harris suggested a task force be created to look at safety issues.

City Manager Joshua Smith said he's frustrated that staffing concerns weren't aired during bargaining discussions this summer.

“(The union) just ratified a contract in the past 100 days," Smith said, "That was the appropriate venue.”

The city hasn't been willing to replace staffing levels that were cut from the contract years ago, Harris said.