Firefighters, residents, concerned over low staffing

Crews battled a fire in East Liverpool, Ohio Monday afternoon

EAST LIVERPOOL, Ohio (WKBN) – There were only two firefighters on duty in East Liverpool Monday when a fire tore through a duplex, destroying the structure and leaving a woman homeless.

The call came in at about 2:30 p.m. for the fire at Bradshaw Avenue and Ravine Street. Flames were shooting through the roof and the fire was rapidly consuming the building.

Bob Smith, president of the East Liverpool firefighters union said on a good day the department has four firefighters on duty. Other times, such as the day of the duplex fire, staffing is as low as two.

Smith said it all comes down to cost and the city’s budget is tight. The department has gone from 32 to 12 firefighters in the past ten years while battling almost 150 fires in the last five years – a situation that is concerning residents.

“It is sad because this is an old river town, and we’ve lost a lot of population. We just don’t have the monies to support,” Smith said.

East Liverpool once had almost 27,000, now it’s at about 11,000. Resident Don Davenport says he votes yes any time a fire levy is on the ballot but would like to see other forms of financial help.

“If there is some way that they could find funds from the federal government or state or anybody else,” Davenport said. “I’m sure they are looking into it. They are doing the best they can.”

In March, the department will lose another firefighter to retirement and a replacement may not be hired.

“We are worried about our own safety and the public’s safety. It is hard to do your job properly with just two people on duty, even four pushes it,” Smith said.

City officials won’t comment on the staffing level. They are currently in contract negotiations with firefighters.

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