Lincoln Firefighters Say Their Department is Understaffed

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LINCOLN -- When the Lincoln Fire Department gets one emergency call, firefighters say they have to hope a second one doesn't come in.

Without help from a outside department, they say they don't have the staff to cover it.

"It worries us, and when we do educate our citizens, they start to worry about it," said Louis Robertson, a firefighter in Lincoln.

Robertson says for a city of 48,000, there are only six working firefighters on any given day. Last year the department got more than 4,500 calls for service -- about 15 per day.

"So when you see an engine go by, there's only 2 of us on it. We're kind of limited on what we can do," Robertson said.

"If you have 6 people on duty for 45,000 plus people you're way understaffed, I'd say grossly understaffed," former Lincoln Fire Chief David Whitt said.

Whitt said the understaffing issue started after the recession in 2008. Simply put, the city ran out of money and had to make cuts.

Lincoln Mayor Peter Gilbert said the city is still feeling the effects of the recession.

Gilbert says the city is just starting to rebound. Population growth has spurred new neighborhoods and retail centers.

But most of the tax revenue from Lincoln's growth doesn't actually go back to Lincoln.

"We get about 17 percent," Gilbert said.

The majority filters up  to the county -- none of that money is coming back to Lincoln Fire.

Gilbert says on big fires, the city does sometimes get help from the Rocklin Fire Department. The departments even share their current fire chief.

But Whitt says it's not enough.

"Reality is we have to find a way to put trained firefighters on the ground in cities like Lincoln," he said.

For the time being, Robertson and his crew members don't expect new firefighters any time soon.