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A Boston Globe review of fire department responses in Boston reveals that while some firefighters at Boston firehouses log thousands of runs, others do very little. The busiest four firehouses, in Roxbury and Back Bay, are 10 times more active than those at the bottom of the list, which include stations in Readville, Brighton, and Dorchester.
Watchdog groups that monitor city spending say that at a time of tight city budgets, the Boston Fire Department should review its 34 firehouses to look for cost savings such as shuttering or consolidating some of the facilities. Though many outside audits have examined other aspects of the fire department, none has analyzed the calls at each firehouse or examined the necessity of having firehouses in less-busy areas, they said.
Staffing a fire company—about 16 firefighters, three lieutenants and one captain—costs about $2 million a year, fire officials said. The department of some 1,400 firefighters, with a budget of $185 million, has not laid off a person in nearly 30 years, they said.
The number of fires in Boston has dramatically declined in the last four decades, and in 2012, 60 percent of the department’s 72,000 incidents were medical and service calls, according to department figures. Fires accounted for just 8 percent. False and needless alarms represented 34 percent of the department incidents in 2012.
Samuel R. Tyler, president of the Boston Municipal Research Bureau, a Boston watchdog group, said that there is likely no need for the fire department to respond to most medical calls and that the department uses them to help justify having a large number of firehouse.
Fire officials said that redundancies in emergency response are deliberate and necessary.
“We do have redundancies on service calls, but these are redundancies that help protect the people,’’ Fire department spokesman Steve MacDonald said.