NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — The Metro Fire Department is increasing staffing levels on the weekends -- for now.
The Department sent out a memo this week which reverses cuts put in place early in the budget year.
Beginning tonight, minimum staffing levels for weekend shifts will increase by six firefighters which will allow the department to operate SUV's designed to respond quickly to medical calls known as FAST cars.
NewsChannel 5 Investigates first reported in August that downtown stations shut down the SUV's because of budget cuts.
We went out with firefighters on a busy Saturday night in August, when thousands attended a concert downtown.
"It's sitting parked tonight because of a staffing reduction," said Union President Mark Young in August.
While the FAST cars sat parked, downtown stations sent much larger fire engines to respond to medical calls.
"You were on top of this immediately, even the first weekend that these were shut down you were there," Young said.
He credited our report with first showing the impact of lowering staffing levels and parking the FAST cars.
"The call volumes definitely increase in the downtown area on Friday, Saturday and Sunday, so this is a step forward, Young said.
But many firefighters say it just makes sense to run the FAST cars.
We showed in August how downtown stations were having to send their huge hook and ladder trucks to basic medical calls.
It put extra wear and teal on the million dollar trucks and it increased response times as the large trucks tried to get through gridlock downtown.
"What we are seeing is response times being delayed because of the heavy equipment trying to navigate the traffic," Young said in August.
The department reduced staffing levels after the Mayor's office asked for more than $586,300 in cuts - or "targeted savings" - to the department's already status quo budget.
In January the fire department told us cuts to overtime had already resulted in more than $1.7 million in savings so far this budget year.
But the recent memo sent to firefighters warns if there is an "increase in budget expenditures" the department may again "eliminate staffing the FAST cars."
"I hope it stays in place from now on, because it is much needed," Young said.
Next month the NFL draft is just one of several major events downtown.
Young says it would be wrong to keep the FAST cars parked no matter the budget situation.