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FIREFIGHTER SHORTAGE: Numbers Stagnant Since ’90s

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It's their duty to respond to emergency calls but Des Moines firefighters say its staff is being stretched too thin.

Last year, Des Moines firefighters responded to more calls than ever before and according to the local firefighters union, they did it with the smallest staff in decades.

“We love doing a great job and we always strive to do the best we can,” says firefighter, Travis Hurley.

When the call comes in, Des Moines firefighters have four minutes. That's the deadline for them to be on scene, possibly saving lives.

Hurley says it's getting harder to meet that goal, “The fact of the matter is at times that gets tough with the numbers that were at.”

Those numbers include the 283 fire fighters that make up the Des Moines Fire Department. In 2001, they responded to 16,000 calls. Last year, they responded to a record 21,000 calls.

“So there`s been a significant increase in runs but essentially we`ve stayed the same as far as people goes.”

In order to stay within the city's budget, Fire Chief Jon TeKippe says the department had to reduce their annual funds by $26 million and was forced to reduce the number of fire personnel by about 2% from the year 2000 to 2013.

Hurley is president of the local fire fighters union. He says the problem goes back further, to 1990 when he says the staffing level was essentially the same.

“It creates increase stress on our members, we end up doing more with less, and sometimes it takes us longer to get to places.”

According to Chief TeKippe, response times have not been affected. Hurley argues they'll get longer unless something changes.

“To see things change I would like their to be better communication between firefighters, the administration and the city... I could say there is a communication issue.”

Chief TeKippe says he looks forward to talking with union members about the issue.

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