Hialeah residents may have to pay more on their insurance bills if the city’s firefighters are cut and fewer of them are at the ready, an insurance expert said Friday.
"I just was told my job was not needed anymore. I have until September 30. I was being laid off,” said Hialeah firefighter Javier Perez.
Perez’s fears were confirmed when he got the layoff letter. He will no longer be a firefighter and soon will have no way to pay for the home he just purchased.
Perez one of 105 firefighter paramedics the fire union says are on the chopping block, which is about 40 percent of the firefighting force in Hialeah.
NBC Miami learned the new and veteran firemen aren't the only ones who could take a financial hit. Every resident in the city could potentially take a hit too. Both the union and independent experts say insurance rates may go up.
“The people who are going to suffer are the people of Hialeah whose insurance rates are going to go through the roof,” said Chris Mancini, the fire union’s attorney.
Every city in the country has to be rated, and when the number of firefighters falls below the ratings, the insurance companies are going to adjust the ratings, Mancini said.
Currently, Hialeah has a top rating, but with fewer firefighters, the union say,s not as many fire trucks will be on the road and stations will close.
The city says it’s not just the number of firefighters that affects the ratings but the amount of equipment and the number of fire hydrants.
“If the rating is lowered, what happens is the insurance companies believe the response will not be as adequate or good,” said independent insurance expert Jose Palacious.
Palacious said the issue is basically about how long it will take firefighters to respond to an emergency. He added that some residents may see their insurance drop them.
“Some insurers might refuse to insure in a certain area,” he said.
The city said the administration wants to negotiate with the firefighters’ union the necessary concessions, which, the city says, they have been unwilling to make.
“As we have stated before, this administration is ready to sit down and negotiate with the Fire Fighters Union the necessary concessions which they have been unwilling to make up to this point. Moreover, this decision will not compromise the safety of our residents and the services they receive from our fire department,” Amie Alonso, the mayor of Hialeah’s spokesman, said in an email statement.
"I have nothing else. This is all I've ever studied," said firefighter Alex Herdia.