The “Happiest Place on Earth” is growing but its staff of firefighters is not.
The Walt Disney World theme park and resort in Orlando, Florida is growing to include new resorts, a new gondola system, and a new Star Wars-themed exhibit. But the crews of firefighters who look out for the safety of the guests are concerned that their numbers are not adequate to cover the expansions, especially the new gondola system.
Disney has added two more firefighters to each shift, but that is the only staffing change the entertainment giant has made since the 1980s.
The new gondola system will carry ten people per car, with a maximum of 2,000 passengers in the 200 car total.
Gondola-riders will be swept 90 feet in the air and get picturesque view of the park, sometimes being carried over water.
The system is sure to be a hit with customers, but firefighters worry over the amount of staff it will take to safely remove passengers from the ride should an emergency occur.
“We’re at the max now,” said member of the Reedy Creek Professional Firefighters Tim Stromsnes in an interview with local news station WGTV9. “We’re just worried that with all this expansion, we’re not going to have enough firefighters.”
When firefighters voiced their concern to management and requested an additional 40 more crew members to supplement the current shifts of 32 firefighters, they were turned down and instead granted two administrative positions.
“We got no boots on the ground,” Stromsnes said. “Nobody that could do a gondola rescue or be on the tower truck or on the special ops team. None of those people were hired.”
The resort can host up to 350,000 people per day. It also covers twice the area of Manhattan in New York.
WFTV, who first reported on this issue, reached out to Disney for comment on the firefighters concerns. The reporters were told the safety of guests and cast members is and always will be Disney’s core focus in operating its parks and resorts.