Buffalo, N.Y. (WHAM) – ‘Dynamic staffing’ has been in effect around Buffalo firehouses since 2014. The controversial plan is new to Rochester, and has been unwelcome by many.
Buffalo Fire Commissioner William Renaldo says its model was made in agreement with the fire union there, but it is still unpopular among crews, and people who don’t want to see a firehouse out of service for a shift.
“They don’t like it – but people like to come to their firehouse. They have their set routine, and obviously they don’t like to show up, and their company’s placed out of service,” said Renaldo. “It’s uncomfortable for them. It’s not popular. I won’t lie about that. It’s not popular among the firefighters.”
Like in Rochester, Buffalo firefighters are placed at other firehouses if a station is taken out of service for a shift, which is 24 hours in the Buffalo Fire Department.
Renaldo said its model was installed after sick time abuse by firefighters, which resulted in others having to work more overtime to cover.
Since 2014, he says sick time use has dropped, and there’s been no change to response times or any greater risk to public safety.
So far, the model has saved BFD about $150,000 in overtime costs this year, Renaldo said. It’s not in place strictly to curb overtime, he said.
And, much like in Rochester, he said officials consider a number of factors, like weather and holidays, before taking staff from a firehouse for a shift.
“We take recommendations from our a senior leadership, our division chiefs, as far as what’s going on in the city. Is there any special events? Is it the Fourth of July, which is coming up? Is it a snowy day, where we need more personnel?” said Renaldo.
“Public safety overrides everything,” he added. “Public safety is number one, you know, so that’s why I keep saying it’s not all about the money.”
Vinny Vetresca, president of Buffalo’s firefighters union, said his members would like dynamic staffing out of their contract.
“We are still working to have it removed,” he said. “Bottom line: it adversely affects response times [and] puts citizens and firefighters at risk to save pennies.”