Press Releases

For Immediate Release: December 1st, 2009

NYC Firefighters Denounce FDNY Manpower Reduction

City's Decision to Reduce FDNY Manpower will Endanger Lives in 100 Communities Citywide

Leaders of the Uniformed Firefighters Association (UFA) today denounced a decision by City Hall and the FDNY to reduce manpower on 49 Engine Companies throughout the City of New York, saying it will endanger New Yorkers and Firefighters lives.

Steve Cassidy, President of the UFA said that the city has been lying to New Yorkers about response times generated by its failed UCT dispatch system, which he demonstrated had driven up response times to fire and medical emergencies, as opposed to reducing them as City Hall has claimed. "The city's deliberately false statistics are part of an attempt to justify closing firehouses in 2010. City Hall's Enron-style accounting now raises questions about other statistics they are trumpeting."

City Hall has the right to reduce staffing levels if more than 7.5 percent of firefighters are injured on the job or placed on medical leave by FDNY doctors. Medical leave for firefighters can only be granted by FDNY doctors.

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, while allowing fires to grow exponentially. Only 11 of 197 Engine Companies in the city will have 5 firefighters.

According to the federal National Institute of Standards and Technology, it takes just 2 minutes and 40 seconds from the inception of a fire, until a room is completely engulfed in flames, with temperatures reaching 2,000 degrees. View the NIST Video

Every uniformed member of the department reports any injuries or illnesses they have to FDNY doctors. The department's doctors grant or deny medical leave status not the Firefighter. The 1996 agreement that allows the administration to reduce fire protection in over 100 communities is a discretionary, not mandatory decision of the current mayoral administration. The figure the city uses to trigger staff reductions in these communities is within a .01% to 1% figure and Firefighters have no control over such slight variations.

Engine staffing safety has been studied for decades. FDNY Chief of Department John Hart in 1981 had 139 out of a total of 210 engine companies staffed with 5 firefighters. He concluded a 4 firefighter engine was the absolute minimum and does not represent an adequately manned company. Most New Yorkers and even journalists covering the FDNY don't understand that the term 4-firefighter company is a misnomer, because one of these 4 firefighters is the motor pump operator leaving only 3 firefighters to actually stretch hose and extinguish the fire.

In 1987 after exhaustive FDNY testing Deputy Chief Vincent Dunn concluded a 4 firefighter engine could not provide an aggressive interior attack on the fire and maintain an acceptable standard of safety for firefighters, thus 5 firefighters are needed to be effective. The study found reducing a company from 5-firefighters to 4 doubles the time it takes to get water on the fire, dramatically increasing life hazard and property damage.

Chief of Operations Donald Burns in 1991 closed engine companies where the staffing level fell below 4 firefighters because it was unsafe. These firefighters were dispersed to the closest fire unit to bring them to full strength. As Chief of Operations and Chief of Department, Chief Dan Nigro continued to follow the policy set by Chief Burns.

The events of September 11th and the potential future acts of terrorism that firefighters now guard against only reinforce in his mind the importance of adequate staffing. "New York City is undeniably the number one terrorist target in the world. Until our world changes, we must never forget that," said Chief Nigro on the occasion of the last Bloomberg Administration manpower reduction.

The UFA represents 9,000 active New York City Firefighters.