A series of fires on the South Hill over the weekend is raising questions about a fire engine that was put out of service because of budget cuts last year.
It was a busy weekend for South Hill firefighters. Three fires in less than 36 hours. On Saturday, a two-alarm fire destroyed a detached garage at 31st and Manito Boulevard and damaged vehicles inside. Then early Monday morning flames heavily damaged a home just a few blocks away at 31st and Bernard.
"We were stretched. We were really stretched," Assistant Fire Chief Brian Schaeffer said.
The big question now is if Fire Engine Nine was in service could it have made a difference? Fire officials say it's tough to say.
Even though there are still 14 fire engines in service throughout the city, Schaeffer said it would definitely be a benefit to have an another one up and running.
At Monday morning's fire near 31st and Bernard, which Schaeffer described as a fast moving fire, with Fire Engine Nine out of service other crews hurried to the home.
Station Nine's two-person rescue crew -- which handles medical and rescue calls -- arrived on scene within five minutes. But with no firefighting capabilities they aren't able to fight the fire. Two minutes went by before a fire engine arrived. Within 11 minutes, 25 firefighters were on scene which exceeds the fire department's response requirement.
"Over the weekend it shows the fact is we still have fires so we still need to keep that fundamental aspect of the fire department staffed and ready to respond," Schaeffer said.
But if another fire broke out around the same time Sunday night things could have been different from a response standpoint.
"Spokane has a history of constantly cutting," Schaeffer said. "Every year we are forced with cutting from the fire department."
This year the fire department cut over $1 Million from its budget. There were no layoffs, but 12 positions were eliminated through retirements and resignations along with Fire Engine Nine's closure.
"I didn't vote for the budget last year because the public safety cuts were too deep," Spokane City Councilman Jon Snyder said.
Snyder, who represents the South Hill, said the city's fire situation is highlighted by the series of fires this weekend. Snyder's goal is to bring Fire Engine Nine back in service next year.
"We can't lose that fire protection. We have a lot of older neighbors with older homes and they need that fire protection," Snyder said.
Fire officials, however, say preliminary numbers show the city might be in for another deficit year, so next year the fire department could be forced to make even more cuts.