NY Times - December 29, 2012by DAVID SIMS
The last year has been the second-busiest in the Fire Department’s history, reflecting expanded responsibilities for Firefighters even as the city tries to cut the department’s staffing, Uniformed Firefighters Association President Steve Cassidy said Dec. 27.
Firefighters responded to more than 495,000 emergencies in 2012, up from 488,000 in 2011, according to a UFA survey. The busiest year remains 2010, with 507,430 emergencies on record. The last three years have been the busiest period in FDNY history, Mr. Cassidy said in a phone interview. That is due to the added responsibility for non-fire emergencies; structural fires are down sharply from the “war years” four decades ago when arson ravaged many poorer neighborhoods.
‘Expanded Our Capabilities’
“New Yorkers are availing themselves of the services of the Fire Department more than ever before,” he said. “Post-9/11, we’ve expanded our capabilities in terms of responding to medical emergencies and all kinds of disasters.”
This year’s numbers don’t include the FDNY work cleaning up after Hurricane Sandy, Mr. Cassidy noted. “We pumped water out of basements, we took care of downed trees, all of those things are not even included,” he said.
The role of Firefighters continues to expand even as the Mayor pursues budget cuts year after year, attempting to close some 20 companies around the city and eliminating the fifth Firefighter from many more nearly two years ago.
“We still have those battles,” Mr. Cassidy said. “What’s clear is, when you continue to have one busy year after another, it’s hard to imagine us doing it with less than we already have. The fifth man presents real challenges for us in terms of getting water on the fire quickly.”
‘Can’t Cut and Maintain Service’
With the Mayor showing no sign of backing down on the reduced engine-company staffing, “it’s going to play out in the courts this year, we think,” he added. “We’ve been asked to do more with less; it is our hope that we don’t face any more cuts. Because it would be impossible for us to continue to deliver the same services at the same level.”
The UFA estimates the FDNY has responded to 5.225 million emergencies during the Bloomberg administration. Emergency responses in general have risen some 500 percent since the 1960s, reflecting the FDNY’s more-diversified role—since then.
Along with fires, the department responds to building collapses, gas leaks, scaffold rescues, vehicle accidents, medical emergencies and natural disasters, along with terrorist threats.