Many fire departments today are facing cutbacks, including layoffs and staffing reductions by attrition, caused by the faltering national economy and weak municipal budgets, according to the IAFF.
For example, the Fire Department of New York has 500 fewer firefighters today then it had on September 11, 2001. In Minneapolis, budget cuts have resulted in substantial layoffs, and firefighters in that city now operate their fire engines and trucks at staffing levels that fall short of the national standard.
"Despite many accolades and plenty of pledges of support by elected officials for our domestic defenders, much of the Federal homeland security money for firefighters and other first responders continues to get lost in the government bureaucracy at the federal, state and regional level and is not reaching local fire departments," says Schaitberger.
Today, two-thirds of the nation's fire departments are understaffed and fail to meet the national fire service standard, he says. Short-staffing puts citizens and firefighters at further risk even before homeland security is put in the equation, he says.