Several FDNY Engine Companies Add Fifth Firefighter

Several of the FDNY’s busiest engine companies across all the boroughs are finally getting one more firefighter.

As part of a contract agreement between City Hall and the Uniformed Firefighters Association last summer, the department has added a fifth firefighter to five of the most swamped engine companies throughout the city — something the union has been clamoring for since 2011.

“During our contract negotiations this summer, one of the most important things on our agenda was trying to get a fifth firefighter for our engine companies,” UFA President Stephen Cassidy said Tuesday. “It is such an important safety measure, especially for those engine companies that operate alone.”

The added firefighters began their tours of duty at Engine 65 in Midtown, Engine 42 in Mount Hope, Bronx, Engine 283 in Brownsville, Brooklyn, Engine 324 in Flushing, Queens and Engine 158 in Mariner’s Harbor, Staten Island on Feb. 1.

The FDNY’s own studies show that engine companies equipped with five firefighters can “get water on a fire twice as quickly,” Cassidy said.

The city has been tinkering with engine company staffing since 1996 when the union signed a deal granting the city discretion to reduce staffing in engine companies if firefighter medical leave averages increased.

“FDNY are some of the hardest working women and men in this city, and this increased staffing will support New York’s Bravest in their tireless efforts to keep our residents safe,” Cassidy said.

In 2011, former Mayor Bloomberg pulled the fifth firefighter for the last 60 engine companies that had them as part of a cost-cutting measure.

The union filed an action with the Office of Collective Bargaining, but lost its bid to restore the lost positions.

“It’s incredibly important issue for us to get our staffing back to previous levels,” Cassidy said. “It means a lot to our members.”

Under the new agreement with the de Blasio administration hammered out in August, the FDNY can add five firefighters to engine companies throughout the city each February until 2019 at a cost of $21 million.

Fire Commissioner Daniel Nigro hailed the increased manpower, coming, he said, “with call volume at record levels.”

Of the four firefighters traditionally assigned to an engine company, only three actually fight the fire. The fourth smoke-eater is the rig’s chauffeur and maintains the truck operations while the other three stretch lines and put water on the fire, Cassidy said.

“When you think about it, four is really three,” he said. “So five is really four.”

The newly fortified engine companies are already reaping the benefits, Cassidy said.

The reinforcement proved critical for the Staten Island engine company on the first day the fifth firefighter arrived. The unit was able to pop the doors of burning homes without having to wait for a ladder company to show up.

“That’s an indication how important a fifth firefighter can be,” Cassidy said.

From The New York Daily News

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