Brevard firefighters call on commissioners to stop budget cuts

Firefighters fear greater danger to public

By James Sparvero - Reporter

VIERA, Fla. - Firefighters with Brevard County Fire Rescue attended Tuesday night's County Commission meeting to raise their concerns about the negative effects of budget cuts on firefighters, fire union leaders said.

"We're losing a lot of people, a lot of turnover, a lot of experience," Josh Madsen with the Brevard County Professional Firefighters Union told News 6. "If it hasn't happened yet, I fear it's just around the corner. That's what I fear."

He said the cuts are creating a public safety threat, especially considering that 65 firefighters left Brevard County last year.

The union said a lot of them moved because they can't make ends meet.

Someone new with Brevard Fire Rescue gets paid as little as $11 per hour,  firefighters said.

Low wages reflect a budget that is down $15 million dollars since 2008, although calls for service since then have increased 40 percent, officials said.

"A lot our members are forced to work on their day they're supposed to be coming off," Madsen said. "They're forced to work another 24 hours against their will. The commission sees it as money. They see it as dollar signs. When they get rid of a paramedic and they replace him with an EMT, they see it as cheaper."

Madsen said Brevard paramedics responding to emergencies are down 42 percent in the past three years and could decrease by 60 percent in the next two years.

News 6 called all five Brevard County commissioners but had no luck speaking with any of them Monday.

Commissioners weren't the only leaders not talking.

Brevard Fire Chief Mark Schollmeyer told News 6 two weeks ago that he would do an interview in response to the union's concerns.

On Monday, however, the county told News 6 it will not make a comment.

The union hoped to address commissioners during Tuesday night's public comment section of the meeting.

"We're going to basically let the commissioners know where we sit with the numbers.  Everyone that works for Brevard, we see it day in, day out. (The) can keeps getting kicked down the road and we fear for our citizens," Madsen said.

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