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Gene Kennedy reportingA fire is igniting in Salt Lake City over one neighborhood's fire station. Budget cutbacks may lead to big changes at Fire Station No. 5.
The fire station is located in the area of 900 E. and 900 South, and the city is proposing to convert it to a station that would handle only medical calls. City officials say 80 percent of the calls this fire station handles already are medically-related.
The idea is to take the 24 firefighters who are here and put them to work at other fire stations. A two-man paramedic crew would then handle the medical calls out of station No. 5. City leaders say this would save half a million to a million dollars a year at a time when Salt Lake City's budget is facing a $23 million shortfall.
"No. 5 station is totally surrounded by other stations. It doesn't mean that I like the idea of closing the station, but [in] my job I have to," said Dennis McKone, acting chief for the Salt Lake City Fire Department.
A spokesman for Mayor Ralph Becker says he feels the plan will not decrease service and can make it more efficient. The firefighters' union begs to differ.
Over the weekend, a flier circulated from an unknown source saying station No. 5 handles 1,000 fire calls a year, and the city's plan would increase response time significantly.
"There's other places to trim fat other than our essential services like police and fire," said Salt Lake City resident Richard Stone.
The Salt Lake City Council meets tomorrow night at 7:00. There's a public comment period, but and the council will not vote on the budget until June.