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Syracuse firefighters make last gasp to save Station 7

Ellen Abbott

Syracuse firefighters have made a last gasp attempt to save Engine Company Number 7 from the Mayor's budget ax. Mayor Stephanie Miner's proposed budget would shutter the crumbling station, as well as cut four members from the ranks of the firefighters. 

At a budget hearing Monday night, firefighter Pete Conover told lawmakers that these cuts frighten him.

"It scares me to think that I might be at work, and something might happen at my house, and nobody's gonna be there to save my wife and kids. Who's gonna be there when all the companies are out picking up the slack for what Engines 6 and 7 once did. Who's gonna be there? Any one of you can answer me," he challenged councilors.

Former firefighter and city resident Tom Sexton worries that the plan leaves firefighting ranks too thin, and puts firefighters in jeopardy.

"I can't believe I saw firefighters walk into this room and tell you they were scared," he said. "I never heard a Syracuse firefighter say they were scared. You better listen to them."

Councilor Pat Hogan says lawmakers are listening, but it might not make a difference.

"The way the process works is, naturally we can propose amendments [and] put money back in the budget for the fire department, but the way things work procedurally, it would be up to the Mayor to spend the money," Hogan said.

The city is in the midst of a financial crisis and shutting down Station 7, which needs massive work as well as staffing changes, would save the city more than $1.5 million.

Fire chief Paul Linnertz, however, believes it doesn't cut that deeply into the department.
"This is four people, four seats, one engine company is being closed. And that's it. I don't know what their fear is," Linnertz said.

Lawmakers vote on the budget May 8, and the Mayor must sign off on it before it becomes final.