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Tucson Fire Department reopens six units shut down due to short staff

Tucson Fire Department Station 6
Posted at 7:20 PM, Nov 08, 2021

TUCSON, Ariz. (KGUN) — It's been more than 24 hours since the Tucson Fire Fighters Association shared that several Tucson Fire Department emergency response units were shut down due to a lack of staff.

"I think yesterday sort of just came as a perfect storm," said Tucson Fire Chief, Chuck Ryan.

The Tucson Fire Department confirmed that the following units were closed on Sunday, November 7:

  • HazMat 1
  • Air Power 22
  • EMS Captain 2
  • EMS Captain 4
  • Engine 6
  • Paramedic 19

All units, expect HazMat 1, were closed from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Sunday. HazMat 1 was closed from 8 a.m. on Sunday to 8 a.m. on Monday.

"We're operating with about 25 vacant positions as it is right now, through normal attrition. We have about another 20 people, plus or minus, who are on some form of long-term extended leave, said Ryan.

On top of that, Ryan said an additional 10 people called in sick on Sunday.

"What occurred yesterday, in terms of units being taken out of service, less critical units being taken out of service first, I won't say it's common, but it's not uncommon in the past couple years that I've been here," said Ryan.

The department removed the units that Ryan said receive the least amount of calls in the City of Tucson. Station 6, which operates Engine 6, averages 2.61 calls per day. Engine 6 was called twice on Sunday. Station 22 responded in their absence.

"The data that I saw this morning indicated that there was no increase in call response times yesterday," said Ryan.

The Tucson Firefighters Association shared that some staff worked up to 48 hours straight. Ryan said the situation wasn't optimal. To prevent it from happening again, he said the department will explore new options in order to cover all parts of Tucson.

"We would possibly shunt some other units and move them from a station with multiple units. We'd maybe pull them out for part of the day to another fire house to maintain coverage, the just in case coverage. Again, it's not optimal, but if that's what we have to do to cover the gap then we will," said Ryan.

In January, the department is training 40 new recruits. 13 additional positions will also be added, thanks to a new grant. The Tucson Fire Department currently has 632 fire fighters.