The Race for City Hall

Boston mayoral candidate Bill Walczak says he would support cuts in number of firehouses

Bill Walczak said that if elected mayor, he would push for reforms at the Boston Fire Department and work to reduce the number of firehouses and staffing.

His administration would also investigate whether the department should be further in line with national operating standards, he said Tuesday.

Walczak, the only candidate to reject a casino is Boston, is hoping his tough talk on the Fire Department will bolster his contention that he is the only candidate who is bold enough to go against the grain for the betterment of the city.

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Outlining his stance in a lengthy position paper that praised firefighters for their perilous task, Walczak singled out the department’s response to the Boston Marathon bombings.

But he also criticized what he said is resistance in the department to change, which he contends has stymied opportunities to make improvements, even ones that boost firefighter safety.

Walczak said he would launch a panel to study such things as training on the force, equipment, and whether management should be part of the same union as the rest of the uniformed staff. He said he would look at whether the department should be integrated with Emergency Medical Services.

“The move to modernize the Fire Department is not a move to negate the proud history’’ of the department, Walczak wrote. “I have deep respect for the [Fire Department] and its history. I am motivated by a desire to ensure the safety of its members and the residents of Boston, and to have the best Boston Fire Department possible.”

The Globe reported recently that 60 percent of the departments’ calls were medical or service related, and just 8 percent were fires, according to department figures. The Globe reported that at least four firehouses saw little activity, while many others were busy.

Other mayoral candidates, including former School Committee member John Barros and state Representative Martin J. Walsh, said that as mayor, they would also review each city department, including the Fire Department.

But Walsh, the only candidate endorsed by the powerful Boston Firefighters Union Local 718, said he would be very reluctant to shut firehouses or slash personnel.

“I think it’s a very dangerous position,” Walsh said. “I’d need a very strong case about why I would close firehouses in the City of Boston. As far as public safety goes, that is something I do not want to do.”

Barros said that maintaining a responsive and well-staffed Fire Department is personal to him because he grew up in areas of Boston once plagued by “arson for profit” schemes.

“That is why I support the hiring of an independent panel to assess the needs of the city and what kind of Fire Department we need to best respond to our needs,’’ he added.

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