MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — On Thursday, Minneapolis Fire Chief John Fruetel gave an eye opening report on workers compensation cost to the Minneapolis City Council’s Ways and Means Budget subcommittee. He said since 2012 the cost for workers compensation has nearly doubled; it’s now at $2.4 million a year.

Fruetel told the subcommittee most of the injuries were related to strenuous lifting resulting in back and leg problems.

Mark Lakosky, the president of the Minneapolis Fire Fighters Union Local 82, says it’s something they’ve been dealing with for years since cuts began in their department.

“We’ve been averaging between 19 and 26 injuries, long term injuries the last few years,” Lakosky said. “I had a guy who just had back surgery yesterday, the second one in a year.”

Lakosky says for the last five or six years they’ve seen consistent cuts to their department, but the volume of emergency calls has increased. He says over the next few months he’s going to lose four or five people to permanent disability and most are under the age of 40. Also, there’s a number on the verge of retiring.

At the Thursday’s city council meeting, Lakosky said it was refreshing to see council members take the issue head-on. According to the Southwest Journal, a southwest Minneapolis newspaper, Councilman Blong Young asked Fruetel what his “ideal staffing level” would be. He told the council he’d like to have 418 firefighters, right now they’re at 376 and says more than 20 are on leave due to injuries.

The increase in firefighter injuries is not local problem, it’s national. A study conducted by the Seattle Fire Department found fire fighter injuries declined 35 percent when staffing increased from three to four. The study was presented to the 108th Congress.

“We had four or five firefighters on a rig a few years ago now those same tasks are being done by three,” Lakosky said. “Fire and police don’t get more affective with less people. You want a good fire department, you need to staff it appropriately.”

Last July, the Minneapolis Fire Department added 19 graduates, 18 of them are military veterans.

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