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Fire Captain Says Cuts To Blame For Injury

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SACRAMENTO (CBS13) – A Sacramento Fire Department captain who broke his back in a fall while fighting a house fire over the weekend says a lack of manpower directly led to his injuries, but department officials disagree.

Fire Captain Gene Dibble said a ladder tilted back while he tried to climb to the roof at a Rancho Cordova home Saturday night, throwing him to the ground and jamming his equipment into his spine, breaking it.

Captain Dibble said he was the last man to climb the ladder, and nobody was available to hold the ladder steady.

“We literally ran out of people. Ordinarily we would have had someone there to anchor the ladder. There was no one left,” he said.

At least 50 firefighters have left the department and haven’t been replaced due to budget cuts over the past three years, Dibble said, and rolling brownouts have kept fire engines out of commission for 24 hours at a time to save costs.

Dibble said he is expected to recover from his injuries, but “I could have easily been a parapalegic.”

“If we’d have had the adequate resources that usually would have been there, this certainly would have been avoided,” he added.

Sacramento Fire Department spokesman Captain Jonathan Burgess disagreed with Dibble’s criticism, saying the amount of firefighters dispatched has not changed over the years.

22 firefighters were at the Saturday night fire, but some additional units may still have been traveling to the scene when the accident happened, Burgess said.

The fire department hopes to end rolling brownouts soon thanks to a $5 million grant from the federal government last week, which will be used to hire 27 firefighters.

Dibble will begin rehabilitation next week.

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