The Anchorage Fire Department has been pulling fire rigs from the streets since Oct. 1 to avoid paying overtime when someone calls in sick, is hurt or is out for other reasons.

On Tuesday, an AFD water truck that serves an area without fire hydrants was placed out of service for the day. Department officials say the driver of the water tender was moved to another fire station because of an absence elsewhere. 

Stuckagain Heights is one area without fire hydrants. It is the reason a water tender is placed at Anchorage Fire Station 14 off Campbell Airstrip and East Tudor roads.

"Fire's a huge concern up here because there's one way in and one way out," said Troy Weiss, who lives in Stuckagain Heights.

Fire department officials say if a house fire had started in Stuckagain Heights on Tuesday, and a water tender was needed, they would have gone to the closest station for one. The department says the closest water tender is at Station 8 near O'Malley and Birch roads in South Anchorage.

The vice president of Anchorage Firefighters Local 1264, Nick Glorioso, is worried about possible delays; even if it's only a few minutes.

"The old adage was fire doubles in size every one minute and that's with legacy type of construction. In today's houses, where everything is made of foam and plastic and rubber, and burns much faster and much hotter, a fire doubles in size actually faster than every one minute," Glorioso said.

Stuckagain resident Weiss said he is understanding of the financial constraints, but said it leaves some places in town vulnerable.

"Realize they have to balance budgets and we all do. That definitely leaves a part of the community at risk if we don't have the ability to haul that water," said Weiss.

The fire department says the water tender can also be used to block traffic after a bad car crash. The tender driver may be tasked with monitoring firefighters who might have to go into a burning structure to save someone.

Local 1264 is keeping track of the dates of when fire equipment is out of service, and which vehicles are impacted, on its Facebook page. The page shows several instances of equipment taken out of service this month, including in Downtown Anchorage, Hillside/South Anchorage, Spenard, north and east Anchorage and Stuckagain Heights.

 

"I think everybody has a concern over it. Everybody gets into this profession to help the public. We're public servants, we want to provide the best service we can, the optimum service," said AFD Battalion Chief Tim Garbe.

Garbe says he is not aware of any incidents where the rolling closures impacted life or safety, but says as public servants firefighters also have to be good stewards of the "public treasury" as well.

"Currently, we're running a budget deficit and so this is really the only tool we have to try to keep our expenses within the tax base," said Garbe.

Firefighters and officials with Local 1264 don't know how long the rolling closures will continue.

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