Gerard Fitzgerald, president of the FDNY-UFA Firefighters Association, says the move will put both firefighters and New Yorkers in danger.
"They will start pulling firefighters off the trucks, off the ladder companies, to fill in the engine companies or vice versa," Fitzgerald said. "This is very dangerous. That means that somebody's job isn't getting done."
Fitzgerald was joined by City Councilmen Joe Borelli and Justin Brannan in urging the city to rethink the plan and consider serious safety repercussions.
"In a $90 billion budget, there is more than enough room to safely employ five members of an engine company and these 20 firehouses," Borelli said. "This is a public safety problem."
Organizers say the FDNY is anticipated to announce this week that they will be removing the "fifth firefighter" from 20 engine companies across the city and force engines to respond to emergencies with only four firefighters, which they say will lead to potential casualties and injuries to civilians and firefighters.
"New Yorkers are being punished and put in danger because of the way this is set up," Brannan said. "It is out of control."
Mayor de Blasio and the FDNY issued the following statement:
"While we continually evaluate staffing needs, no decisions on any changes have been made. For decades, most FDNY engine companies have been staffed with four firefighters - the highest staffing level in the nation. Today, that's how 90 percent of our companies are staffed. The FDNY will have the staff and equipment needed to keep all New Yorkers safe and respond rapidly to emergencies."
Officials at the rally say the FDNY has received record-high levels of emergency calls, increasing to over 600,000 a year, and the department has set new record-highs in calls received in each of the last five years.
The FDNY responded to nearly 50,000 fire emergencies in the month of February 2019, with average response times between four and six minutes.
They say the fifth firefighter is responsible for controlling, positioning and operating the hose line, and ensuring that it is secured to the water source.
"Through arbitration, they took away the fifth firefighter but then they brought it back because of the safety concerns," Fitzgerald said. "And then it's kind of a political football back and forth."
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