The federal budget sequester hits home. Firefighters started furloughs Monday at the Blue Grass Army Depot, which stores about 500 tons of chemical weapons.
The decision to furlough staff nationwide came down from the highest levels of the Department of Defense.
The furloughs are part of the fiscal cliff budget cuts. Until September, Blue Grass Army Depot civilian staff will work 32 hours per week.
We spoke with a firefighter at the Blue Grass Army Depot (BGAD). He expressed concern for the community’s safety.
BGAD regularly detonates conventional weapons, and also stores weapons of mass destruction. So, BGAD has its own fire department.
"Ammunition, or munitions might leak. Potentially they could explode. That hasn’t happened," said Mark Henry, BGAD Public Affairs Officer.
Security personnel received an exemption from the furlough.
Firefighters appealed for one, and Congressman Andy Barr wrote a letter to the Joint Munitions Command asking for the exemption.
In the letter Barr wrote, "The multiple leaks at the base in recent years have illustrated exactly why all emergency personnel need to be present to properly manage any emergency situation."
BGAD’s spokesperson says its commander hopes the firefighters get the exemption.
"We are working with them as a group to hopefully convince upper command that our firefighters need this exemption from furlough," said Henry.
A decision from upper command could come any day.
"There is no concern to the community in any way regarding the safety and security of our munitions chemical, or conventional," said Henry.
BGAD hoped to hear from upper command Tuesday. That did not happen.
Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel wrote a memo in May saying that people crucial to "Safety of life and protection of property," should be exempt from furloughs.
The firefighters believe they fit that criteria.