By Tracy Clemons
EAST ST. LOUIS, Ill. (KSDK) - A video posted on YouTube is shedding light on a looming problem in East St. Louis.
A federal grant that helps fund the fire department is about to expire, and more than a quarter of the city's firefighters could lose their jobs.
Now some firefighters hope a viral plea to the public will help save their department from cuts.
The East St. Louis Fire Department could lose 22 of its 53 firefighters, according to union president Brandon Walls.
"We're actually below the number that we need now, and that type of cut would create a great hazard to us and the community," said Walls.
This potential cut is because a $3.3 million federal grant the city got in 2011 to help fund the department is set to expire.
Members of the union put this video out to tell the public about the layoffs. It got more than 55,000 hits on YouTube in its first three days online.
Mayor Alvin Parks says the number isn't quite as high as Walls says.
"The worst case scenario is that 15 firefighters would be laid off, effective May 1. That's the worst-case scenario. Best-case scenario, is that we get the grant back and that we're able to not only keep the 53 that we currently have but again to add five more back," said Mayor Parks.
If the grant expires, and the city is not approved when it re-applies, the fire house at 28th and State would close. It's the oldest one in the city, and sits right in the middle of East St. Louis. It doesn't take much to figure out what that could mean for response times.
"All those fires that happen in that middle part of the city, you'd have three departments converging on any kind of fire that would take place," said Mayor Parks.
He says they hope to build a broader base of revenue so they don't have to depend on grants in the future. But the firefighters are concerned about now.
"We're not out here begging for lofty raises. We're actually trying to have a living and be able to provide for our families just like anybody else and at the same time one of the biggest things on our radar is safety," said Walls.