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20-Feb-2016 12:09

“No matter how you analyze the data, Portland, Maine, stands out for having a very large fire department.” John Brooks, president of the Local 740 International Association of Firefighters union, said in a written statement that comparing fire departments is complicated and that Portland does not have more firefighters than it needs.

On a per-capita basis, no other department even comes close.

The next largest comparable department is in Warwick, Rhode Island, with 2.66 firefighters per 1,000 residents.

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Jerome La Moria is sworn in as Portland's 14th fire chief on Jan. In response to the Maine Sunday Telegram's analysis of staffing levels in his department, La Moria said there's a "danger" in comparing per-capita figures of communities.

It's important to consider emergency-response resources available regionally, he said.

Among other factors potentially adding to the cost of the city’s million fire department is its 24-hour work shifts, a common practice in the industry that some chiefs say costs more money than it saves.

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About half of the communities in Portland’s size range — 40,000 to 100,000 residents — have fewer than 2 firefighters per 1,000 residents.Despite its large fire staff, Portland struggles to contain overtime costs that have approached or surpassed million in each of the past two years.