Firefighters said they desperately need more people to protect the lives and property, but hiring could now be delayed for months.
The firefighters' union said staffing has dropped for two years, even as the city's population grows. About 782 firefighters are on the job, compared to 940, two years ago.
"If you don't increase the resources to provide that service, you're continuing to tax the people that are here today,” said Frank DeClerq, president of the firefighter’s union. “Whether it's the person who's the captain, or the firefighters that are going on a lot of calls."
But City Attorney Jan Goldsmith said a hiring freeze is needed, to make pension reform work.
Voters last week overwhelmingly approved Proposition B, which requires a 5-year pay freeze and 401K type pensions for most new employees.
Goldsmith said, with the exception of police, no new employees should be hired until new "defined contribution" plans are approved.
DeClerq said that means possible delays in starting two new classes at the fire academy, and more forced overtime for firefighters.
"They don't want to work that many shifts,” he said. “We want them to hire full-time employees, so they can staff them.”
The city attorney says the hiring freeze should start the day Proposition B takes effect, which could be as early as next month.
It's up to the Mayor and city council to discuss that recommendation and take the next step.