DECAUR, Ala. (WHNT) – It’s been months since the City of Decatur had a fire chief. The city has tried several times to narrow a field of applicants, but the council is forced to begin the process yet again. Today, firefighters asked city leaders to visit their training center for a first hand look at what the department does, and where firefighters hope the future will lead them. WHNT News 19’s Al Whitaker has the story.
A few members of the Decatur City Council have publicly said they believe the Decatur Fire Department should cut back on the services they provide. Currently, firefighters respond to not only fire calls but to most of the traffic accidents and other emergency medical calls in the city.
Today they showed members of the city council why that saves lives. The scenario shows the so-called pit-crew method of attending to someone who has suffered a heart attack. Its believed to greatly improve a victim’s chances of survival. Following the two-hour demonstration, Council President Gary Hammon said he was impressed, but…
“I mean I’m not going to come to a demonstration and change my mind on anything immediately, but it’s something else to think about, sure,” Hammon told WHNT News 19.
Firefighters learned today the council is considering closing Station Four. Mayor Kyle declined to discuss it but Hammon confirmed he and the mayor have talked about the future of Station Four but that no decision would be made until a new fire chief is hired, and that process is continuing. There are currently 42 applicants for the fire chiefs job. That includes one Decatur Battalion Chief. The rest are from outside the department.
— Al Whitaker, WHNT News 19
FROM THE REPORTER’S NOTEBOOK: We began hearing rumors of the closing of Station Four early Thursday morning. Several firefighters I spoke with confirmed the story but added it’s not official just yet. One high ranking member of the department, when asked Thursday afternoon, dispatched it as nonsense saying, “I’d like to know where that’s coming from.” Basically it could have come from any member of the fire department as the word spread through the rank and file like a wild fire, no pun intended. However, late Thursday afternoon, as the demonstration was winding down that firefighters put on at the training center for members of the city council, the city’s attorney and the city clerk, and others, I asked Mayor Don Kyle for a quick on-camera interview. He responded only if I would tell him in advance what I planned to ask. I replied Station Four. He left without making any intelligible comment. Council President Gary Hammon, who was standing with me when I asked that of the Mayor, volunteered he and Kyle had been in discussions regarding the closing of Station Four, but stressed no decision would be made until a new fire chief has been hired.
Most any of the firefighters will quietly tell you of a growing riff between them and “city hall,” as many have told me. The majority won’t speak on-camera for fear of retribution. The goal of Thursday’s demonstration was designed to make certain council members are aware of the remarkable achievements for a department this size, their training the envy of departments in much larger cities, and hoped the demonstration would be helpful to the council members as they begin again the task of trying to select a new fire chief. We’ll see. More to come… Al