NEW ORLEANS - Dozens of firefighters protested outside of New Orleans City Hall and then made their presence felt during the fire department's appearance before the City Council Budget Committee.
Union President Nick Felton said the current staffing proposal would leave the department about 150 firefighters shy of where it should be and he says it doesn't allow for any new recruit classes.
He said that between 25 and 65 percent of the engines sent to fires are going out understaffed.
"(We're) running below industry standards," he said Friday. "This budget doesn't allow for those standards."
However, Fire Chief Tim McConnell did not seem to agree with that assessment.
Under direct questioning from Council President Jackie Clarkson, McConnell said he felt the department had the firefighters it needed.
"I believe we're staffed properly," he said. "I think we're sizing the department correctly for the amount of calls we have.
McConnell said the number of calls for help is down and that unlike what Felton alleges, 33 of the company's units are staffed with 4 firefighters and only 6 units have 3 firefighters on them.
McConnell also said the public does a better job at fire prevention, showing that the department answered 740 calls in 2002 for calls of fires of one-alarm or greater and that 10 years later, in 2012, they answered 360.