GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - Saturday morning, Fire Station #4 on East Rail Road Street will close as part of a cost cutting measure. Gulfport's fire chief says if he believed in his heart that moving around personnel would jeopardize the lives of residents and firefighters, he wouldn't support it.
The A shift will be last shift to be ever be on duty at Gulfport's Station #4. At 7:30 am, the fire station will close its doors. The move comes after a consulting firm told Gulfport the city had too many fire stations and the city's own investigation agreed.
"I was challenged by the administration to come up with a reallocation of forces that would provide the same fire protection for our citizens and keep us at a classification rating 4, while also being able to save money, because the economy hasn't picked up the way everybody had hoped it would," Chief Mike Beyerstedt explained.
The chief said by closing Station #4 and eliminating three positions through attrition, Gulfport will save $200,000. The firefighters now working at Station #4 will be reassigned to stations that are Downtown and in Orange Grove.
"The number of firefighters we have who respond to a fire every day is going to be the same," said Chief Beyerstedt. "What will change is where those employees and where those firefighters will be coming from."
While the city's fire rating won't change, the chief said some residents will be impacted.
"I can't come on camera and tell you that no one is going to be affected by this in a negative way. The people that live very close to Fire Station #4, their initial response times are going to be diminished somewhat by this," he said. "Once you get a half mile away, three quarters of a mile away from the station, the other stations will pick up that. Those times will be very similar."
The chief said public safety is number one.
"The life safety and the well being of our citizens and the life safety of the firefighters are things I hold very seriously to my heart," he said. "If I thought this change of the way we allocate our resources was going to jeopardize any one of those things, I would not put my name behind it."