SOUTH TUCSON, Ariz. - Twenty-two firefighters have now walked out of the City of South Tucson Fire Department.
This comes after the city decided to cut firefighters last year because of a financial deficit.
Residents of South Tucson filled city hall Monday night to voice their concerns to the City council.
Packed room at South Tucson council meeting regarding their firefighters. Residents and firefighters expressing concerns on the fate of the fire department. pic.twitter.com/uCAEG9tPzH— Jennifer Martinez (@Jennymartineztv) February 13, 2018
Former Fire Captain, Rick Raimondi is one of the 22 firefighters resigning. He says the last straw was the city cutting down how many firefighters work on each engine.
The cut back on engine personnel from four to three firefighters is a big concern.
"For the majority of us it's unsafe and unacceptable," says Raimondi.
Raimondi says that four firefighters to an engine are the national standard.
"If you have three, you're either going to put yourself in great danger by performing a rescue, or you're going to lose lives - citizen lives because you're not going to enter a burning building until you have back up."
South Tucson City Manager, Sixto Molina says, the cutback was put on the table and accepted last June, but the city was able to fund four firefighters in the engine - until now.
The city had to make a tough decision to get out of the $624,000 deficit due to unpaid bills - even cutting back on city jobs.
According to the city officials, the deficit now at zero.
"The balance is zero but looking down the road - in the future, the projections are that the revenues still will be less than what was projected last budget year," says Molina.
For many residents like Arlene Lopez, cutting back on public safety isn't an option.
"What is critical in our community is fire and police," says Lopez. Adding, "Every second count in your life and to me that's crucial. So they need to find another cut because our Fire Department is unacceptable to the community."
The City of South Tucson is now actively recruiting firefighters.
Some options mentioned were to raise property or rental taxes to keep the public safety.
As of right now, those resignations take effect March 1, 2018.