Dallas Fire-Rescue staffing dipped below required levels in October

FOX4 has learned that the Dallas Fire Department is so short staffed that it recently dipped below policy staffing levels.

On three occasions in October, the fire department had 8 engines around the city that didn't have enough fire fighters to fight fires inside burning buildings.

If your home or business catches fire, state law requires four firefighters on scene before anyone is allowed to start fighting the flames inside. There is an exception if someone is in imminent danger, but the Dallas Fire-Rescue chief says he's also concerned about the safety of his crews.

"Happened a few times where we had 8 engine companies staffed for 3 people for 12 hours in this city. That reduces staffing on first line of response,” said Dallas Fire-Rescue Chief David Coatney.

FOX4 first brought the staffing shortage to Coatney's attention a week and a half ago after getting a tip. At the time he said he was not aware of that happening, but now he knows differently.

“The truth is, I was reminded by my Assistant Chief of Operations, he'd mentioned it to me before,” Coatney said.

That's why the chief wanted to talk on Wednesday, to make it clear that he wants to make staffing levels on the engine companies a top priority.

"I want to staff our heavy apparatus full-time staff units, make sure they're staffed first,” Coatney said.

But with the entire department under a staffing crunch, including a shortage of firefighters assigned to ambulance response, keeping that promise will be a challenge.

“We have an aggressive recruiting model and it's getting people to fill those seats,” Coatney said.

Right now the fire department is down 211 firefighter paramedics. Due to changes in the pension law, that number is expected to climb to 296 come January -- a 15 percent staff shortage.

The chief says with his aggressive hiring plan he does expect for things to stabilize later next year.

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