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December 19, 2014

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NLV approves OT pay for fire department to be fully staffed on Fourth

North Las Vegas Fire Department will be fully staffed on Fourth of July, even if it means dipping into the slashed overtime budget.

City Manager Tim Hacker has approved a dip into the overtime budget that has been reduced by $2.1 million, so the department will be able to handle the influx of calls that flood in on the holiday. The authorization will ensure the department has from 43 to 50 staff members working.

“Because Fourth of July is a high-volume call day, this ensures there are firefighters are on shift to handle the (calls),” said city spokeswoman Juliet Casey. “That’s what (Hacker) considers a wise use of overtime. There’s a greater need so he doesn’t want brownouts (station closures) on a day when all hands are needed on deck.”

Hacker was unavailable for comment.

Since July 1, the city has limited the fire department’s overtime usage to help close a budget gap exceeding $30 million. Fire Chief Al Gillespie has designated four stations and six vehicles to shut down or “brown out” in case staff levels are too low to avoid overtime.

Two stations were closed on Monday and Tuesday due to staff levels as low as 29 employees. Casey said the number of staff vacancies have come as a surprise. She said the city expected an average of seven firefighters out for vacation and about four out for sick leave.

“(Hacker) is hoping (the brown outs) are an anomaly,” Casey said. “I don’t know that this is going to be something that happens regularly, it’s not something they thought would happen.”

North Las Vegas Firefighters Association President Jeff Hurley said in a press release that he expects the staff to be back to “ghost town status” after the Fourth of July.

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