When word got out that the city was considering closing 25 firehouses, we figured less drastic cuts would be announced later. Today the city says it will reduce staffing at 49 engine companies. (New York currently has 194 such companies.) The city's contract with the firefighters' union allows it to make personnel cuts when the percentage of firemen out for health reasons hits 7.5 percent. The 49 houses will be cut from five on-duty firefighters at a time to four, which should relieve the city of some overtime obligations to keep the companies at the higher staffing level.
FDNY says the cuts "will not affect fire response times, which -- at 4:01 -- are the fastest in city history." But the Uniformed Firefighters Association disagrees. "The FDNY's own studies have concluded that reducing manpower by just one firefighter, from 5 to 4, nearly doubles the time it takes to begin getting water on a fire," they say. They also say this cutback reduces the number of engine companies with a staff of five to 11, and that the Department's reported response times are bogus.