Kenney Is Officially Ending Brownouts

Mayor Kenney will announce Thursday that he is stopping the controversial policy of temporarily closing fire stations. He promised to eliminate brownouts on the campaign trail.


Mayor Jim Kenney will officially put an end to one of his predecessor’s most controversial policies tomorrow.

A spokeswoman for Kenney says he will announce Thursday that he is eliminating the fire department’s policy — known as “brownouts” — of temporarily closing a handful of fire stations each day in rotating neighborhoods.

In 2010, former Mayor Michael Nutter’s administration began using brownouts as a way, it said, to save almost $3 million a year amidst a budget crunch. Nutter insisted that brownouts did not compromise residents’ safety and called critics’ suggestions to the contrary “unnecessary hysteria.” Over the last 10 years, the number of annual fire deaths in Philadelphia has dropped by 77 percent. But the firefighters union fiercely argued that brownouts put citizens in harm’s way.

Kenney, the son of a firefighter, promised to end brownouts during his mayoral campaign. When the firefighters union endorsed Kenney last February, it cited his opposition to brownouts as one of the reasons it supported him.

Kenney’s press conference will be something of a formality. reported that Fire Commissioner Derrick Sawyer sent a memo to firefighters on Dec. 24 of last year announcing that brownouts would be “cancelled until further notice,” apparently in advance of Kenney’s January inauguration. Brownouts have not been used since.

Still, Kenney’s announcement will signal that brownouts are gone for good (at least under his administration). And it will enable Kenney to show that he has kept a campaign promise, one that was important to key union supporters.

Kenney will also announce Thursday that no firefighters are scheduled to be transferred this year to different stations against their wishes. Like brownouts, “forced transfers” were a Nutter-era policy sharply criticized by the firefighters union. Lauren Hitt, a spokeswoman for Kenney, says that policy is currently “under review.”