FDNY union blames Brooklyn fire on staff shortage

February 22, 2011 3:37:51 AM PST
Investigators returned to the scene of this weekend's deadly and devastating fire on 29th Street in East Flatbush on Monday morning.

Residents returned to see if they might be able to go back in yet.

Most were still talking of their neighbor, 64-year-old Mary Feagin, who died in this fire and how quickly it spread from a 4th floor apartment.

"It was shocking. It was really shocking," Ambrose Terry said. "So far, everything is lost."

Terry lived on the first floor.

He says he has no idea if more firefighters would have helped, but the firefighters union says it would have made all the difference in the world.

"It took them an extra five minutes - an additional five minutes to get water on the fire," UFA President Steve Cassidy said.

Cassidy points out that on back on February 1, Mayor Michael Bloomberg was able to push through cutting the number of firefighters on several trucks from five to four.

That cut included first two responding engines Saturday night.

"If the cuts had not been made, this fire would have been contained to one apartment. Sixteen [(irefighters] were burned. A civilian is dead and 100 families are homeless all because of Mayor Bloomberg's cuts," Cassidy said.

The FDNY says the union is wrong - that high wind and an open door exacerbated things, not a lack of manpower.

And now the FDNY tells Eyewitness News that one of the first responding engines was unavailable.

Instead, that unit was busy responding to a police officer who accidently shot himself in the leg inside a nearby precinct.

"It appears engine 248 did not tell dispatch they were assigning themselves next door [to the police shooting]," a spokesman said. "We are reviewing the initial response."

Neighbors say they were unaware of any delay.

"They did a great job," fire victim Celeste Brent said. "I have no complaints about the fire department. They did a great job."

The cause of the fire remains under investigation.