By Mike Dunn

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — The Philadelphia Fire Department’s controversial policy of temporary fire station closures — known as brownouts — dominated the discussion this past week during City Council’s first chance to question the new Fire Commissioner.

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Squilla: Is that still the object right now?

Sawyer: I believe so.

Squilla: You believe so? If there was more money put into the budget, would the brownouts stop?

Sawyer: After we conduct an analysis.

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Squilla: So what’s the reason for the brownouts?

Sawyer: To save money.

Squilla: So if you had more money, what do you have to analyze?

Sawyer: You have to analyze where you spend your money.

Mayor Nutter first announced the brownout policy early in his first term, and it has elicited criticism from council members and others ever since. Nutter says the policy of temporary fire station closures saves taxpayer dollars without affecting public safety. The firefighters union has long contended that safety is compromised.

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At the hearing, Commissioner Sawyer — who succeeded longtime fire chief Lloyd Ayers last summer — said some brownout days are currently being used to give firefighters time for “cellar fire training.” He said brownouts are usually cancelled during major storms.