Fires do not care about budgets, and that is the burning truth!
In one recent week, nearly 50 fires broke out across New York City. Those fires claimed several lives and displaced hundreds from their homes.
In two of those fires, desperate women – faced with a heartbreaking choice – held their infant family members out windows so they stood a chance of survival. In another one of those fires, 13 businesses were lost.
The impact of these fires is always immeasurable. These fires are a tragic warning and a potential predictor of more tragedies to come if we do not keep our fire companies open.
Firefighters are our first line of defense against fire and medical emergencies, and they address life and death situations every single day. Fires can happen at anytime, regardless of where you live or how much money you make. Moreover, the fires mentioned above demonstrate that even our current level of protection is sometimes not enough.
However, 62 fire companies are currently in jeopardy of closing.
To understand why, here is some quick background of last year’s proposed fire company closings and a breakdown of the Bloomberg administration’s current preliminary budget proposal.
Last year, 16 companies were slated to close and would have closed if not for City Council discretionary dollars that restored them for that fiscal year. This year, those 16 are up on the chopping block again along with an additional four companies.
Furthermore, the state’s budget allocation to the city, in light of Governor David Paterson’s proposed $1.3 billion in cuts, will determine the fate of another 42 fire companies. That could mean 62 potential fire company closings.
These proposed budget cuts come at a time when our fire services respond to a number of incidents that shatter all previous records.
In 1970, the Fire Department of New York (FDNY) responded to 261,655 incidents. In contrast, the FDNY responded to 473,024 total incidents in 2009. Fire companies are strategically positioned to respond to an emergency within three to four minutes.
In addition to fires, these companies respond to a whole spectrum of emergencies, such as medical emergencies, carbon monoxide leaks, elevator problems, water outbursts and gas explosion. Let us be clear: Emergencies do not care about budgets.
Furthermore, due to textiles and various chemicals used today, fires are growing hotter and becoming more vicious than ever before. According to the National Institute of Standards and Technology, in today’s environment it takes a fire less than one minute to go from ignition to more than 2,000 degrees. Simply put, fires grow exponentially every second.
Response time will increase if fire companies close.
Wherever fire companies are closed, emergencies within those areas will rely on assistance from outside neighborhoods, leaving those neighborhoods less protected.
A cardiac arrest victim has less than five minutes to receive emergency medical attention or risks irreversible brain damage or death. Without the nearest fire company in operation, who will save this person in time?
If we close one fire company, the entire city will feel the impact. The meager savings derived from the closing of fire companies must be compared to the losses that will accrue from reducing coverage by our already overstretched fire protection. We simply cannot afford the added costs and the burden of reducing our current level of protection.
As elected leaders, we should not shift the costs from the city to our citizens. When it comes to the safety of New Yorkers, we must deliver. I urge New Yorkers to organize with me and make sure Mayor Mike Bloomberg knows our safety needs.
Contact the Mayor and make your voices heard loud and clear – keep our fire companies open!
For more information on how to get involved in the Campaign to Save Our Fire Safety, please contact the Office of the Fire and Criminal Justice Committee Chair Elizabeth Crowley at 718-366-3900.