NYC Sees Highest Number of Fire Deaths in a Decade

NY Post - March 17, 2019

by Rich Calder

Fires killed 88 people in New York City in 2018, the most in more than a decade, FDNY Commissioner Daniel Nigro said on Thursday.

Testifying before the City Council’s Fire and Emergency Management Committee about the FDNY’s new $2.1 billion budget, Nigro called the surge from 73 deaths in 2017 “a concerning development.”

The last time more people died in fires was in 2007, when 95 lives were lost.

It was only a couple of years ago — 2016 — that the fire death toll was 48, the lowest in 100 years.

Nigro didn’t offer an explanation for the second sharp increase in as many years, but officials later pointed out that there were no working smoke alarms in more than two-thirds of the fatal fires caused by faulty electrical equipment and smoking — the leading causes of all the blazes.

Nigro said his department is working with the American Red Cross to deliver 60,000 smoke alarms to needy residents.

He said 2018 was a “very busy year for the department,” as it responded to 1.7 million calls — up 4.8 percent from 2017. More than 1.4 million were for medical emergencies.

“It is certainly a reminder that even in the face of budget cuts, it is vital to keep staffing levels on front-line FDNY and [Emergency Medical Services],” said Councilman Joe Borelli (R-SI), the committee chairman.

Nigro said his department would not be cutting “front-line services,” despite being asked to find $6.5 million in savings as part of Mayor de Blasio’s $750 million budget cuts requested of all agencies.

Instead, he said, the savings would be found by not filling vacant civilian posts and in other areas.

Nigro was also asked to explain the delay in buying “spit hoods” to protect ambulance medics.

The Post reported last week that the rollout was delayed more than a year because some officials thought white hoods would be linked to the KKK and black hoods might be attacked as a form of blackface.

“A few years ago, the medical equipment committee, which includes representatives of both EMS unions, when evaluating whether the department should purchase these hoods — and should they be white or black — decided it would be detrimental to the patients we serve,” said Nigro.

He said the department settled on beige and hopes to equip its EMTs and paramedics with them soon.