BUFFALO, NY – As Buffalo firefighters turn up the heat on City Hall surrounding their contract, union officials are now sounding the alarm, claiming safety violations are putting their crews and the community at risk.
For Buffalo firefighters, their air packs, ropes, and rescue devices can mean life or death for themselves and those they rescue. State Safety and Health inspectors have charged the City of Buffalo with serious violations: That emergency escape and self-rescue components have not been inspected often enough, which is at least once a month, and that there should have been a department requirement for monthly inspection.
The firefighter’s union says the air packs haven’t been properly tested for about a year.
Union health and safety chairperson John McKeown said, “It’s supposed to regulate the pressure in the air we’re receiving while we’re in the smoke.”
Buffalo Fire Commissioner Garnell Whitfield said the department wasn’t aware that monthly checks were necessary and that people are now being trained to properly inspect the equipment.
The other violation called “serious” by the state involves medical examinations. The state inspector found that HAZ-MAT firefighters have not been provided with medical evaluations within the past 12 months, as required by fire department’s own policy, and that no documentation was provided that a longer medical evaluation interval had been approved by an attending physician.
“It’s very serious,” McKeown said. “Within the last two years I know personally two members that had heart issues while inside a structure fire.”
Union president Daniel Cunningham said, “It’s not fun burying people. I’m concerned about the safety of our members.”
Fire Commissioner Whitfield says the company hired to provide physicals had its own re-alignment and could no longer continue as the vendor. The city is putting bids out for a new vendor.
Meanwhile, the city has been paying fines up to $200 a day for the last six months for these violations.