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D.C. Fire Chief Aims To Cut Force

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The D.C. Fire Chief is pushing for a change in the schedules of fire fighters, which would increase hours worked and cut costs by a reported $36 million.
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The D.C. Fire Chief is pushing for a change in the schedules of fire fighters, which would increase hours worked and cut costs by a reported $36 million.

D.C. Fire Chief Kenneth Ellerbe is proposing some major changes for the department. He says he wants to shrink the force by nearly 30 percent -- most likely through attrition. And in a move that he admits may accelerate firefighters leaving, Ellerbe says he wants to the department to change from 24-hour shifts to 12-hour shifts.

Currently, firefighters work eight days per month, on a rotation that includes a 24-hour shift followed by three days off. Under the proposed new system, they would work two 12-hour shifts on consecutive days, then two 12-hour night shifts, followed by a day off. If they moved to the 12-hour shifts, firefighters would work about 22 days a month.

Ellerbe says the department would save $36 million annually by implementing the new system, and would ensure that more firefighters were available every shift.

The shift would affect many firefighters who live far outside D.C. According to the chief, more than 40 percent of the department's firemen and women live more than 30 miles away. Some commute from as far away as New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and South Carolina.

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