GARY (STMW) — The mood around Gary’s fire stations is somber as 30 firefighters are set to be out of a job by the end of this week, according to the head of the firefighters union.

Gary Firefighters Union Local 359 President Raynard Robinson said that four people were laid off on Dec. 18, while 30 people are scheduled to be laid off on Friday. Robinson said that one man, who was scheduled to be laid off, quit when he found another position elsewhere.

“It’s a horrible feeling,” Robinson said. “It’s not just the guys being laid off. I thought that the chief should have gotten the guys together and given them a pep talk. You’ve got to take some care with this.”

The jobs were eliminated as part of the city’s cuts in the 2011 budget.

Fire Chief Jeff Ward was not available for comment on Monday.

Robinson said that they prepared the layoff notices on Dec. 17, but they didn’t hand them out until the day after Christmas.

He’s been driving to the fire stations around the city, talking to guys at the fire houses and trying to encourage them.

“I told them that I am working to get the guys back, but the timing was bad,” Robinson said.

The staff cuts equal about 20 percent of the city’s firefighters and Robinson said it could have a detrimental effect on the ability to respond to multiple fires.

Robinson said that mechanical problems prevent the city from putting half of its 13 fire engines in service.

Earlier this month, Ward said that the staffing cuts and older equipment wouldn’t deter the department from protecting the city.

Most of the laid-off firefighters are some of the youngest members of the department, which is a shame, Robinson said.

“After 20 years on the job, my knees aren’t what they used to be,” he said. “I’m not going to be able to outwork a 28-year-old. After the cuts, the department’s average age will be 40.”

Robinson said that many firefighters already have part-time jobs because they haven’t seen raises in five years.

(Source: Sun-Times Media Wire © Chicago Sun-Times 2010. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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