JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- With four fire stations on the chopping block and 10 fire trucks at risk of being taken out service, the looming threat to public safety has never felt more real to the Jacksonville Association of Firefighters President Randy Wyse.
For the past 25 years, Wyse has served as a Jacksonville firefighter. He says while dealing with budget cuts is nothing new, this time around, it's the worse he's ever seen it.
"They have cut the fire rescue department so much already that there is really no more fat there. We're getting into muscle and bone at this point," said Wyse.
In order to close the city deficit of $64 million, cuts have to be made. In a plan proposed by the the Jacksonville Fire and Rescue Department, four fire stations, including one that hasn't even been built yet, are at risk of closing.
"If you take a piece of that puzzle out there is a hole, the surrounding stations respond to that area but what if the surrounding station is also on a call?" said Wyse.
Mayor Alvin Brown says it all comes down to the rising cost of the police and fire pension fund.
"That's why I worked on retirement reform so we presented a retirement plan that would really deal with the city's finances and that's the key," said Brown.
Wyse agrees with the mayor, he says they've already proposed to take $43 million dollars out of their own pension.
"We think the plan that's in front of them is really going to help over the next two years and we're totally committed to even after those next two years to doing more things to reduce that unfunded liability," said Wyse.
But now it's up to the city council. If the pension plan is not approved, cuts are inevitable and public safety will be at risk.
"There has been times when people have debated about response times, well what's a couple extra minutes? Hold your breath for two minutes. That will let you know how long it really is and that could mean somebody's life," said Wyse.
Wyse is confident a deal will be reached, and fire stations will remain open. The budget has to be submitted by mid-July and a decision made by October 1st.
Until a decision is reached the fire stations and fire trucks will remain in service.