Sunday, August 01, 2010

FDNY To Reduce Staffing At 60 Engine Companies

Engine 26 in Manhattan would lose 1 firefighter per shift,
as would 59 other engine companies in NYC.
City fathers play roulette with citizens' and firefighers' lives.

Commentary by: Lou Angeli

New York, NY (Augsut 1, 2010) -- NY1 reports that The New York City Fire Department is set to reduce staffing in 60 engine companies from five firefighters to four. Many firefighters across the country may say, "big deal, we've been working with 2 and 3 man engines for years."

Well, I'd have to ask," when is the last time your engine ran 14 fire calls per shift?" Sure, your rig may turnout 14 times each day, but more than likely the bulk of your work is EMS related or auto accidents. In New York City the 14 count includes actual FIRE calls during which firefighters lay supply line, conduct searches, advance attack lines by hand to the top of a 6 story tenement, open roofs and close out the session with a hot, dirty, lengthy overhaul.

With a summer marked by several intense heat waves, sources tell cable tv's NY1 that medical leave levels have risen above 7.5 percent in the last 30-day period (due to firefighters suffering from exhaustion and heat stroke during working blazes.) However, at 7.5 percent the UFA's contract allows the adminitstrators to reduce staffing to help control overtime. (8% or 9% and the city would not be able to cut staffing.)

The Uniformed Firefighters Association says the city has miscalculated the way it computes medical leave, because the agency does not give firefighters who go home sick in the middle of a tour credit for having worked some portion of their shift. And heat exhaustion is the type of injury or illness that takes place during a blaze often after 10 hours on duty.

Firefighter staffing is a touchy subject for firefighters' unions and locals nationwide, but with the UFA it chomps at the bone. Why? FDNY tactics are based on 5 man engine companies -- not 4. With 4 man companies, there is a delay as as the first due company must often wait for additional companies to arrive to fill pre-determined job functions.  And with fewer firefighters on the scene, experts say that special calls and multiple alarms will increase, leaving other New York communities unprotected.

In a statement issued by the UFA they say "This miscalculation is further magnified by the FDNY being 300 firefighters under head count, and that three recent heat waves took a great physical toll on firefighters working in 100 degree-plus heat."
The union goes on to say, "It is a fact that any reductions in engine company manning endangers firefighters and public safety, especially given that the last five years have been the busiest in the 145-year history of the FDNY."
But Mayor Bloomburg is a man on a mission and is holding fast -- and will reduce staffing with or without the UFA's approval.
Well, there's is a benefit to Bloomburg's decision, one that will make fire enthusiasts go nutso. With trimmed down crews, fires will get out of hand from time to time, perhaps growing to greater alarms. More "jobs" mean more photo and video opportunities for the buffing community. Hopefully, one of these buffs will capture a situation that will clearly demonstrate the UFA's fear, and force Bloomburg to take his razor sharp cost cutting blade to some other agency's budget.
NY1 material reposted with approval.

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