By Mike DeNardo

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — The Philadelphia firefighters union says the damage in the firehouse blaze in downtown Philadelphia would have been limited if the city hadn’t closed fire companies in recent years.

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Firefighters Union Local 22 President Joe Schulle says if Engine 8 were still housed at 4th and Arch, crews would have had faster access to water to extinguish the fire in Medic Unit 44 (see related story). Engine 8 was deactivated in 2009 in a cost-saving move.

“Our engine companies carry 500 gallons of water. Had they been in this station, had they been in service, I’m sure they would have pulled out of the station and rapidly extinguished the fire,” Schulle said.

Schulle says any delay in response time makes a difference.

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“It showed today if you seen the footage how quickly fires grow and extend. And it’s important that that was the firehouse, but that could have been any fire in the neighborhood or the community,” Schulle said.

Schulle says especially in an area near the U.S. Mint, Independence Hall and other historic buildings, a fully equipped fire company is essential.

“The closing of stations and causing the increased response time, we feel, is a danger to all the citizens of Philadelphia,” Schulle said.

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