GARY | Messages filled with anything but holiday cheer were being delivered to nearly three dozen Gary firefighters starting Sunday.
Fellow firefighters and the battalion chiefs were being forced to be the messengers of layoff news.
One battalion chief, who asked to remain anonymous, said he resented having to hand deliver the notices to co-workers.
"It's just not right," he told The Times.
Gary Firefighters Union President Raynard Robinson also was upset by the timing of the 34 layoff letters.
"It was poor timing to give out the notices the day after Christmas," Robinson said.
Robinson said as his fellow firefighters are laid off in the next 48 hours, Gary residents will find their safety jeopardized. Robinson said a shortage of manpower will force the Fire Department to close down some fire stations.
"Everyone will be at risk," Robinson said.
Robinson said at full force the city staffs 13 fire engines and three firetrucks. The department is down to six engines and two trucks, and the layoffs will reduce manpower to a critical level, Robinson said.
Robinson said the layoffs are based on seniority and will reduce staffing by 20 percent. The resulting effect is -- as younger, less experienced firefighters are laid off -- the average age of those left will be 45 to 50, Robinson said.
Robinson said the money Gary spent to train the younger firefighters now will benefit other departments that hire them.
The Times was not able to reach Gary Mayor Rudy Clay Sunday on night for a comment.