FDNY Faces Cuts Despite 2010 Rise in Fires, Emergencies

Queens Gazette - May 12, 2011

by RICHARD GENTILVISO

When President Barack Obama visited Engine 54, Ladder 5, Battalion 9 in Midtown Manhattan last week he remembered its 15 firefighters and all 343 FDNY members killed responding on September 11. "We never forget," he said.

"I want to thank you from the bottom of my heart on behalf of the American people for the sacrifices that you make every single day," Obama told them. "You're always going to have a president and an administration who's got your back the way you've got the backs of the people of New York over these last many years."

FDNY Chief of Department Edward Kilduff, the highest ranked uniformed firefighter in New York City, said afterward, "The president made it very, very clear that we have the support of the administration."

But the FDNY is facing the loss of 20 firehouses in the next year. Mayor Michael Bloomberg has proposed the closings of 20 as yet unidentified stations at a savings of $30 million. The mayor's final Executive Budget is due shortly.

FDNY Deputy Assistant Chief John Sudnik of the Queens Borough Command said any firehouses that are to close must receive 45 days' notification. "They haven't been identified yet," Sudnik said during a presentation at the April meeting of the Queens Borough Cabinet.

There were more than half a million fires and emergencies in New York City in 2010. In Queens, there were 105,543 incidents, an increase of 11 percent from 2009. And there was an increase of 17 percent in Community Board 6 (Forest Hills and Rego Park).

Citywide, the FDNY responded to 436,097 emergencies in 2010, an increase of seven percent from 2009, Sudnik said. In Queens, firefighters went on 89,386 emergency calls, an increase of 12 percent over 2009. In Community Board 6, there was an increase of 15 percent in FDNY emergencies, the highest of the 14 Queens community planning boards.

Although structural fires are down, with fewer than 9,000 occurring in Queens last year, the number of medical emergencies to which FDNY responds is increasing. Medical emergencies were up citywide, to a total of 218,686, an increase of 41 percent from 2009. In Queens, the increase was five percent, to a total of 46,364 medical emergencies. Community Board 1 (Astoria and Long Island City) had an increase of nine percent in 2010. The FDNY was responsible for 65 pre-hospital saves in Queens last year.

"Sixty-five people are still alive in Queens because the FDNY was there," Sudnik said.

Civilian fire fatalities were down to 62 in 2010 (there were 73 in 2009), the lowest in New York City history. In Queens, the decline was by almost half (48 percent) from 23 fire fatalities in 2009 to just 12 in 2010.

"I attribute it to the fine work of FDNY firefighters," Sudnik said. Average (five-year from 2006 to 2010) response time in the city is four minutes, 58 seconds. In Queens, it is five minutes and two seconds.

"As you know, City Hall is looking to close 20 fire companies, come July 1," Sudnik said. "I know we have some tough times, but in my opinion, public safety should come first." In the meantime, Sudnik added, "The [FDNY] men and women will continue to give 100 percent effort."