Rochester firefighters set to take over emergency responses for West Brighton Fire Protection |
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On Wednesday, Rochester Firefighters are set to take over fire and emergency responses for the West Brighton Fire Protection District. Last week, the town of Brighton voted to bring in the Rochester Fire Department to staff the firehouse twenty four hours a day, seven days a week.
What will that mean for safety in the city? News10NBC asked that question to city officials and the firefighters union.
The city firefighters’ union says the city will need to take a pumper and 16 firefighters from the fire house on South Avenue near Highland Park, leaving the city less safe. The union says covering West Brighton, expands the city’s total coverage area by 25%.
The Rochester Fire Department just completed a four year cost-cutting plan and the firefighters' union says it's now a frequent practice for fire engines on the east side of the river to respond to fire calls on the far west side, and vice versa.
And in a letter to Mayor Richards and city council members, city firefighters' union president Jim McTiernan says "The merger with the West Brighton Fire Department will spread the resources of the Rochester Fire Department even thinner."
Jim McTiernan, City Firefighters Local 1071 president, said, “Everything that we have said was going to occur has occurred.”
McTiernan says response times haven't necessarily decreased. But the number of fire companies on the scene immediately has been reduced and he raises the issue of three fatal city fires in the last six months with serious firefighter injuries as well.
McTiernan says he's not blaming any of those seven deaths on a shortage of manpower.
McTiernan said, “Absolutely not. I have never said that anything would save a life. I couldn't predict that. I don't think anybody can. But we can point to the differences in what the responses would have been prior to the revised four-year plan and what the responses are now. And they are considerably different.”
City Hall spokesman Gary Walker responded for interim city fire chief Sal Mitrano who's out of town.
Gary Walker, mayor's spokesman, said, “The fire chief is very confident that we can do this; that the city has the resources. The city has been covering some of the larger fires for the West Brighton Fire Department for awhile now. And with the declining number of fires we've seen in the city.”
Walker said, “We feel confident that we can do this.”
City Hall points out that Rochester had not had to resort to mass layoffs of firefighters as other cities have done.
Walker said, “I would argue this too. If you look around New York State, we're one of the only cities that have not seen significant firefighter layoffs.”
For the last eight years, the Rochester City Fire Department has responded to all structure fires in West Brighton, but Wednesday, they will respond at all calls as the primary responder.
Brighton Supervisor Bill Moehle say the city takes over at 8:00a.m. The two firefighters on duty at the West Henrietta Road firehouse will remain there for now. The volunteers will remain in a support role.