LORAIN, OH (WOIO) - A budget deficit has hit the city of Lorain hard.
The city is facing a $3.5 million deficit and just laid off 22 firefighters and closed down a fire station. Now the city of more than 60,000 people has only 48 firefighters. Lorain has about half the number of firefighters of similar-sized cities across Ohio, and nearly 1/3 in some cases.
Response times are expected to double because Lorain firefighters will often have to rely on neighboring cities for assistance.
The firefighters were officially laid off on Saturday, putting a smaller staff to the test during the busy Fourth of July weekend.
Trista Mussell lost everything after a fire ripped through her apartment on West Erie Avenue in Lorain on Monday.
"I came home and everything was smoking, and there were three firefighters there, and that was it," she said.
The Lorain Fire Department was so short-staffed they could only fight the fire from the outside while they waited for help from fire departments in surrounding cities.
"I salvaged four pictures out of my full unit," Mussell said.
Firefighters held signs and rallied outside of City Hall on Tuesday. Twenty-two uniforms lined the steps of City Hall during the protest -- one for each laid off firefighter.
"Your choices are burning the city down one firefighter at a time," one read.
Lorain has a population of about 63,000 people. Youngstown has a population of about 64,000. This week, each city has 48 and 126 firefighters, respectively.
Mussell was shocked when she heard the numbers.
"It's not only devastating for me, and it doesn't only make us as citizens feel unsafe, but it's devastating for them to have to watch and stand in front of somebody's home and watch it burn because they don't have the right equipment or enough staff," she said.
Officials say the firefighter cuts saved the city $1.4 million.
The Lorain Fire Department has applied for a $3 million federal gr ant which could help get some jobs back. Officials won't find out if the gr ant was accepted until September.
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