Staten Island firefighters sue NYC after they say department policy almost cost them their lives

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Monday, May 20, 2024
Firefighters sue NYC after they were injured battling house fire
Michelle Charlesworth has the latest from Staten Island.

STATEN ISLAND (WABC) -- Several firefighters announced a lawsuit against New York City on Monday after they say they were nearly killed while battling a house fire in February of 2023.

Four firefighters are suing for a total of $80 million - or $20 million each - for injuries suffered in the fire that they say was made more dangerous because of a city policy that closes firehouses for annual physicals.

Retired FDNY Lt. Bill Doody and firefighters William Guidera, Kwabena Brentuo and John Sarnes were among 22 firefighters injured in the Shotwell Avenue fire.

They say Ladder Company 167 was the closest firehouse to the home, but all its personnel were at FDNY headquarters in Downtown Brooklyn getting their annual medical exams as mandated by agency policy.

They say that essentially took the firehouse out of service, leaving responding firefighters shorthanded and jeopardizing lives.

"You're talking about life-altering injuries, Lt. Doody, they couldn't figure out what had melted onto his leg, Firefighter Guidera jumped out of the second floor building," said attorney Andreas Koutsoudakis. "Instead of someone responding from two blocks away, you have someone responding from 20 minutes away, and instead of coming into a fire that maybe could have went out in five minutes, they're running into a raging fire which collapsed."

Now the attorneys want to change the policy that closed the firehouse without a replacement.

Doody is now retired after 30 years because of the injuries he suffered in the fire. He wants to change the policy that he believes could hurt more people.

"I couldn't live with myself if I didn't do something to try to stop this," he said.

The FDNY did not have a comment but said that at any given time, there are about 20 fire companies out of service across the city for safety reasons. It could be for routine physicals, training or equipment maintenance.

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