Mayor Emanuel is under scrutiny for placing public safety equipment on special duty while holding a news conference this week at a fire house, something Jesus “Chuy” Garcia's campaign calls irresponsible.
During the time Mayor Emanuel was at the firehouse on 13th Street and Blue Island Avenue Friday both a fire engine and an ambulance were placed on special duty for two hours, although they were never used.
The fire department compares the event to what happens during a block party, but the Garcia campaign says public safety equipment shouldn't be used as “props.”
The Station 18 firehouse on Blue Island Avenue is a busy place, during just one hour Friday the fire engine had two separate calls and the ambulance was sent out as well. It was the same fire house where Rahm Emanuel stood in front of a fire engine Wednesday to discuss with reporters the impact of Gov. Rauner’s budget cuts.
NBC Chicago has obtained internal documents from the fire department that shows while the news conference was underway Engine 18 was placed on special duty at 12:44 p.m. and it remained on that status until 3:06 p.m.
The special duty status was given to Ambulance 65 as well from 1:07 p.m. until 3:03 p.m. This is the same day the city's inspector general released a report that the fire department is not meeting response time standards.
“The fire department is under scrutiny for how quickly it gets to its calls,” Garcia campaign spokesman Ald. Ricardo Munoz said. “So for the mayor to decommission two pieces of equipment simply for a press conference is unacceptable."
Fire officials say the ambulance and the fire engine were not totally out of service and, had there been an extra-alarm fire, they were ready to go.
“Special duty simply means the alarm office will first look for other apparatus to send to routine events that can easily be covered without having to use Engine 18 or Ambulance 65,” a spokesperson for the Fire Department said, adding there were no working fires in the area and it was a quiet afternoon.
Others with internal information disagree, saying special duty to them means they won’t call that fire engine or ambulance and work around them.
“It bothers me that a piece of equipment, an ambulance and a fire truck were taken out of circulation simply to be used as props,” Munoz said.
Mayor Emanuel has not responded to requests for a comment.