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For Immediate Release: February 26, 2008

Firefighter Union & City Councilman Blast FDNY for Fatal Response Delays in Queens

Leaders of the Uniformed Firefighters Association were joined by New York City Councilman Leroy Comrie to express their outrage with the FDNY's Queens Pilot Dispatch policy and overall response times in the Borough of Queens.

In the last five days there have been two fatal fires in Queens, as well as a third incident this morning resulting in serious burns to his hands, face and neck, requiring him to be admitted to the Cornell Burn Center.

  • Last Thursday (2/21) a five year boy, Jason Guallpa, died when firefighters were dispatched to a wrong address at a fire in Corona, Queens with a five minute response. They were given a wrong address but that did not significantly delay their response;
  • On Monday (2/25) an 87 year old woman, Emma Calendar, died when the FDNY failed to dispatch an adequate number of ladder companies to a fire in her home in Hollis, Queens;
  • This morning (2/26) a firefighter, Robert Grover, from Ladder 143 was hospitalized at the Cornell Burn Center after firefighters were dispatched to the wrong address and wrong street in Jamaica, Queens.

Due to pressure to improve Queens response times to fires (4:58 in 2007) on February 13 the FDNY instituted a Queens Pilot Program to get emergency calls out before all pertinent information has been collected from the caller.

"In the last five days Queens has seen 2 fatal fires, and this morning a firefighter suffered severe burns. The department's new policy is flawed and is resulting in firefighters being dispatched with incorrect information to wrong addresses. The results have been disastrous, said Steve Cassidy, UFA President.

He continued, "The real issue remains that this is not enough fire coverage in Queens. Rather than increase resources to address the elevated response times the Department has implemented another band-aid approach with disastrous results from the continued failed leadership of the fire department."

Councilman Comrie added, "Foremost, I want to offer my condolences to families of Jason Guallpa and Emma Calendar and offer best wishes for a speedy recovery to Firefighter Robert Grover. These three tragic incidents in the last five days dramatically indicate the need for additional firefighting resources in the borough of Queens and I want to thank the Uniformed Firefighters Association for urgently raising awareness on this issue.

He continued, "This dispatch policy clearly doesn't take into account the multiple same-numbered addresses of the borough. I would think it would be difficult enough to take a phone call from someone in a panicked state who may have an accent and not clear on whether they are at 135th Avenue and 135th Street. But to pressure dispatchers under these conditions in order to effectuate faster response times is wrong. As the fastest-growing borough with over 100 languages, Queens presents challenges that the FDNY's current dispatch policy doesn't effectively meet. This pilot program may have cost the lives of two Queens residents and needlessly resulted in the serious injuring of a New York City firefighter."