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Lehigh Acres Fire Fighters Laid Off

August 25, 2009 – Without warning, 35 Lehigh Acres, FL Local 1826 fire fighters – have received pink slips. For months, Local 1826 had been working closely with the Lehigh Acres Fire District Board to prevent layoffs. Fire fighters had even reached an agreement with the Board that no jobs would be cut before September 30.

“After the property tax reform amendment passed, Lehigh Acres took quite a financial hit,” says IAFF 12th District Vice President Larry Osborne. “Knowing that, Local 1826 had been working hard to preserve jobs and resources. This includes making more than $1 million in concessions.”

“Because we were working so closely with the chief and the Fire District Board, these layoffs are a real shock,” says Walt Stevens, president of Local 1826. “We have been demanding answers about why the Fire District chose not to honor the agreement we had reached, but no one has given us any.”

“We had already made drastic concessions, and we were willing to make even more to save jobs,” says Stevens. “We also began looking for alternate sources of funding, including raising ambulance fees and millage rates.”

But on August 18, Lehigh Acres Fire Chief Don Adams handed 35 fire fighters pink slips. They were told to leave and that they could not return to any fire station.

“This was a complete breakdown in the labor-management relationship,” says Stevens.
“These abrupt cuts have put the safety of fire fighters and the public at a significant risk.”

With these cuts, fire fighters will respond from four stations instead of five, with two fire fighters instead of three or four on each apparatus. In addition, the number of ambulances has been reduced from five to three.

Florida Professional Firefighters (FPF) 11th District Vice President Eloy Ricardo says, “The loss of ambulances is particularly devastating because Lehigh Acres is the only fire-based EMS department in the county. The residents depend heavily on their fire fighters for fire suppression and for all of their emergencies.

The IAFF and FPF continue to work to bring the 35 fire fighters back.

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