911 controversy over Bronx fire response time

July 17, 2013 6:44:18 PM PDT
Firefighters battled a smoky fifth-alarm fire burning through two multi-family homes in the Bronx early Wednesday.

The flames broke out between homes at 1509 and 1507 Commonwealth Avenue in the Parkchester section just before 3 a.m.

More than 250 firefighters from 60 units were also forced to battle the heat in addition to the fire and smoke.

By the time firefighters arrived the house was an inferno with smoke billowing and flames raging from all three floors.

It was too late to save it and too late to prevent the fire from spreading to the house next door.

Everyone made it out alive, but it was a close-call.

"The flames were so ferocious that they set our house on fire," Michael Carrion said. "So my wife is screaming, the kids are screaming, but we're grateful to be alive. A lot of people don't come out of that. I've got my wife, I've got my kids, I've got everything. The house is replaceable."

11 firefighters suffered mostly minor injuries and Wednesday night the president of their union insists that the damage and the danger were made far worse because of a dispatch delay at the city's 911 center.

"We have a dangerous job and we won't accept that. We should not pull up to buildings that are roaring because somebody decided not to tell us in time," said Steve Cassidy, President of the Uniformed Firefighters Association.

But city officials disagree.

"Steve Cassidy, I know him very well. He should be ashamed of himself for trying to create something he knows isn't true," Mayor Bloomberg said.

The union claims the first call came in at 2:40 a.m., but the city claims that call was a hang-up and that the actual call came in at 2:47 a.m.

Both agree that the engine company was dispatched at 2:48 a.m. with an arrival time at 2:52 a.m.

But the union claims the response was nearly 12 minutes, while the city says it was under five.

The union blames the city's controversial, four-year-old centralized 911 system and plans to file suit to shut it down.

"I mean this is not Omaha, Nebraska, how can you take 12 minutes to get to a fire in the Bronx? The results are catastrophic. We're just lucky nobody lost their life," Cassidy said.

Officials say that 10 adults and 15 children were displaced by the fire, the cause was determined to be electrical. It was ruled accidental and stemmed from a home entertainment system.