One day after Prichard Fire Chief David Hale refused to say how many employees are currently working in his department, FOX10 News Investigates has found the answer.
Turns out, the department truly is "severely" under-staffed, just has sources have alleged.
Through sources and state records, FOX10 News Investigates confirmed there are currently only 16 people on staff who are responding to emergency calls.
Of those 16 people, only 10 are actually certified firefighters, meaning they've completed the proper training to adequately do their job.
Some Prichard residents are concerned about their safety.
"I do not feel safe," said resident Geraldine Harper. "That's not enough firemen to cover the city of Prichard, if something major happened, it would be a disaster."
Local business owner, Cozy Brown, echoed those concerns.
"Right now if you have a fire in a certain area well, you're in trouble, it's going to burn down, simple as that," said Brown.
Government records show right now in the city of Prichard, there is only one qualified firefighter for every 2200 people.
In contrast, in the city of Mobile, there's one firefighter for every 400 people.
Wednesday, July 12, Chief Hale said he's hoping to hold a "massive recruiting program" soon.
"Our goal is to hire at least 30 people and that's the goal that I think we will be able to reach," said Hale.
However, the Chief would not say exactly how the department will be able to fund that goal, and referred FOX10 News Investigates to the mayor's office for an answer.
The mayor, for the third day in a row, was unavailable for an interview.
It gets worse.
There are four fire stations across the city of Prichard, but right now only three of those are actually open.
Sources told FOX10 News Investigates the Whistler Fire Station has been closed for more than a year.
"It's not in operation, that creates a problem for the citizens," said Cozy Brown, who's popular restaurant is just a three-minute drive from the Whistler Station. "Even if the fire station was open, you don't have the staff to put in there, so that's sad."
Now, some residents are hoping Prichard's mayor can find funding soon to hire more firefighters, and ensure their safety in case of an emergency.
"I hope he can find it, if there's a way Jimmie Gardner can find it, I think he will," said local resident Earl Jones.
According to the Mobile County Personnel Board website, the starting salary for Prichard firefighters is the lowest in the county, at only $23,000 a year.
The second-lowest is at Chickasaw Fire, at $27,000 a year.
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