NYC firefighters bathe an elephant

September 3, 2009 9:35:48 PM PDT
The city and the firefighter's union have been at odds for years, but now the war of words is turning into a bit of a circus with an elephant at the center of the controversy. When Ringling Brothers, Barnum and Bailey Circus came to Coney Island, they enlisted the help of firefighters from Engine Company 245.

It was a playful photo-op with a firefighter washing down an elephant.

At least one resident loved the idea.

"I thought it was cute that they were washing down the elephant. It didn't bother me,'' she said.

But it bothered the Uniformed Firefighters Association's leadership.

They say it compromised safety. They claim the firehouse shut down for 30 minutes on Wednesday while four firefighters and an officer went to scrub Suzie at the press event.

UFA President Steve Cassidy, says someone at City hall made the decision.

"It's clear a mistake was made initially. Initially, the local company was asked to participate it went right up the chain of command he was overruled by someone at city hall," Cassidy said.

When we asked the Mayor's office about the UFA's allegations, they referred us to the FDNY.

A spokesman there dismissed the UFA's claims, saying City Hall had nothing to do with the situation.

While at the same time, the spokesman acknowledged the mistake, saying "They should have stayed in service? It was not a malicious thing."

The UFA isn't backing down.

"It compromised public safety and firefighter's safety for public relations," Cassidy said.

The Fire Department says firefighters were only supposed to spray the animal when it walked by the firehouse, and were not ordered to close down. The department says closing the firehouse was a mistake.

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Some information from the Associated Press.

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