Phoenix considers cutting fire prevention and pool safety program

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By Tami Hoey By Tami Hoey

PHOENIX -- Jobs hang in the balance as the City of Phoenix tries to balance the budget. If cuts can't be made elsewhere, lawmakers may do away with a department whose sole purpose is to make sure you and your family stay safe.

Today, the Phoenix Fire Department teamed up with SRP, Banner Health and the Pointe Hilton at Squaw Peak to demonstrate a dramatic mock drowning. There have already been 16 water related incidents in Maricopa County this year and 5 children have died.

“Typically you think of the fire department as reactive when something bad happens, but we’re trying to be proactive as well,” said Division Chief Shelly Jamison. “Eliminating fire prevention is shocking, and getting rid of a program that is proactive makes no sense at all.

But faced with a $37 million budget shortfall, the Phoenix City Manager has proposed eliminating fire prevention programs, and drastically reducing fire code inspections to save $1.9 million.

“When you preserve sworn officers you don't have a lot left to balance the budget,” said City Manager Ed Zuercher.

Daniel Farren has been a fire code inspector for nine years and believes such cuts put the public at risk. “With fire prevention, we ensure it is safe to be in these buildings safe to go to these events so if we go to a concert we make sure there are enough aisles to get out of the building.”

They inspect schools, daycare centers, hospitals and nursing homes annually and make sure flammable hazardous materials are used and stored properly. “I care about this community,” said Farren. “This is how I help our community and save lives.”

The City Manager is confident other firefighters or civilians will be able to pick up the slack, but City Councilman Daniel Valenzuela, who is also a Glendale Firefighter, believes public safety should be every government's number one priority.

“When you see lights and sirens go down the road the emergency has already happened,” said Valenzuela. “The honorable thing to do is prevent the emergency from happening in the first place.”

Unfortunately the City Manager says these cuts may be inevitable. “If nothing else changes, this is the recommended list of cuts,” said Zuercher.

“None are acceptable or desirable, but are necessary to balance the budget between revenue and expenditures.”

Division Chief Shelly Jamison says the unfortunate thing about prevention is, “If we saved a half a dozen children today with our demonstration we will never know unfortunately it's the ones we lose you heard about," she said.

Residents have a chance to weigh in and help shape the budget by attending one of the City’s public hearings held throughout the month of April.

You can find out more information on the City of Phoenix website.