DEMOPOLIS, AL (WSFA) - The Demopolis Fire Department has two stations and 23 firefighters, woefully short, according to Danny Todd.
"We've had a decline in manpower issues at the Demopolis Fire Department," Todd, the district vice president of the International Association of Firefighters union, says.
He says his district covers Alabama and feels it was his duty to point out the problems in a 5-page letter to city leaders, calling the personnel shortfall "disturbing."
"We have engine companies running with two firefighters," Todd contends.
Demopolis Public Safety Director Tommie Reese says much of Todd's concerns are unfounded. For example, Todd believes the city needs at least 20 more firefighters, but Reese says no way. The tax base isn't here in this city of 7,000. However, Reese did acknowledge they have jobs to fill.
"We are in the process of hiring a deputy chief over the fire department," Reese, who also serves as the city's police chief, explained.
Just this week, city leaders hired four new firefighters and are in the process of recruiting three more.
"We've done recruiting drives and PSAs," Reese added, saying they've had firefighters leave after being on the job for only two years but not necessarily for higher pay.
Reese has changed his strategy; find recruits who truly want to be here and not use Demopolis has a stepping stone to a bigger department. The starting pay for a Demopolis firefighter is $27,000, Reese confirmed. That doesn't include the $6,000 the city invests in training per firefighter.
"You fix that hiring local and bordering counties," Reese believes.
"You need a minimum of four-man crews to function properly on a fire truck for two reasons," Todd warns. "One for search and rescue, which is primary, and two to limit the damage to any building or house."
Todd says he also tried to work with the city to not close station No. 2 but city leaders shut it down anyway, reportedly because of the age of the building and for budgetary reasons.
There are two philosophies clashing more than 260 miles apart. One says more is needed, the other believes there is no emergency when it comes to personnel.