A COMMON PLEAS judge Friday rejected an attempt by the firefighters union to halt the involuntary transfer of senior firefighters around the city beginning early next year.

Judge Leon Tucker heard five hours of testimony before ruling that the city had the managerial right to transfer the firefighters and that the transfers will not harm residents or firefighters.

The transfers are slated to begin in late January or early February for 95 firefighters with 10 or more years on the job.

Fire Commissioner Lloyd Ayers testified that the plan will free up space at the companies that get the most fire calls - which are the most popular spots - so that rookie firefighters can get experience.

"It's not as cozy and good as we would like it to be, but it's change and we have to change for the future," he said.

Union witnesses said the transfers would rob companies of institutional knowledge in their neighborhoods.

Charlie Sgrillo, who has been at Engine 25 in Kensington for years and could be transferred, said that transferees' lack of familiarity with new areas will cause longer response times.

"We are going to be a little slower; fires are going to be put out a little slower," he said.