I wonder if Acting New Bedford Fire Chief Scott Kruger thinks the people who perished in Monday's general alarm fire on Achusnet Avenue might still be alive if only he had more men available? Two people died in the fire that left another 40 people looking for shelter. It was a devastating inferno that claimed homes, businesses, and lives.

As he watched his men battle the spectacular blaze, Chief Kruger told reporters getting ahead of the fire was difficult because he didn't have enough firefighters available. Budget cuts have all but decimated the New Bedford Fire Department. The fire apparatus is old and in disrepair. The department is down at least 34 positions, according to New Bedford Firefighters Union President Billy Sylvia.

The issue of manpower was not raised by the union or by politicians. It came from the chief. Management. The mayor's guy. It means something. It means even Mayor Jon Mitchell's department heads have had enough of the bull.

The New Bedford Fire Department is barely able to keep the city safe, not because the firefighters are not up to the job, but because there are not enough of them, and the equipment they need to do the job is insufficient.

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When Chief Kruger thinks about the shortage of manpower and how it relates to Monday's fire, I hope he is not too tough on himself. Chief Kruger and his crew did the very best they could do with what they had to work with. Still, under those circumstances, one has to wonder what might have been.

Barry Richard is the host of The Barry Richard Show on 1420 WBSM New Bedford. He can be heard weekdays from noon to 3 p.m. Contact him at barry@wbsm.com and follow him on Twitter @BarryJRichard58. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.

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