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For Immediate Release: April 12, 2006

Greater Alarm Fires Up More Than 50% in February & March

Following Busiest Year in History for New York City, Firefighters See Major Fires Increase by 50%

New York, NY - 2006 is turning out to be a scorching hot year for New York City Firefighters, with greater alarm fires up 51 percent during the months of February and March. The rise in major blazes can be attributed to the increase in serious fires during winter months, as well as a string of arsons throughout Brooklyn.

A greater alarm fire is categorized as a 2nd alarm response or above, requiring a minimum of 25 fire companies and more than 125 firefighters. It is attributed with causing more property damage and elevates the chances for injuries to both firefighters and civilians. Recent examples of such serious fires include:

  • 6-Alarm fire on February 1 at 1270 Gerard Avenue in the Bronx requiring over 45 units and more than 210 firefighters;
  • 4 Alarm on February 12 at 50--14 70th Street in Queens requiring 39 fire companies and 168 firefighters;
  • 3-Alarm ARSON fire on February 25 at 1033 Pacific Street, Brooklyn which killed four civilians, including two children;
  • 5-Alarm Brush Fire on March 11 in Great Kills Park in Staten Island needing approximately 44 units and 198 firefighters
  • 5-Alarm on March 13 at 89-28 Sutphin Boulevard requiring approximately 44 fire companies and 198 firefighters;
  • 3-Alarm on March 28 at 1299 Eastern Parkway in Brooklyn requiring some 33 companies and 138 firefighters;

In February 2006 firefighters responded to 30 greater-alarm fires, as compared to 21 in 2005; a 43 percent increase. And in March 2006 those numbers continued to climb higher as firefighters were needed to douse 38 greater-alarms, as compared to 24 in 2005; a 58 percent increase. In addition, there have already been 93 greater alarm fires during the first three months in 2006, up from 83 the same time last year.

"2005 was the busiest year in the history of the FDNY and now we are on pace to surpass the number of serious fires last year by more than 50 percent,” said Steve Cassidy, UFA President. "When major American cities face such dramatic increases in emergency calls it is incumbent on our government leaders to take action and properly protect citizens. In New York City our firefighters have been told to meet this surge in demand with fewer and fewer resources. The FDNY’s risk management is stretching resources so thin that lives are being jeopardized.”

Cassidy pointed to the FDNY’s practice of closing 20-30 fire companies citywide each day, without community notification, for training and other duties. He said, "On a daily basis to randomly close 9 percent of the fire companies in the City of New York places a massive burden on those who remain open. The Department needs to rethink this practice in light of the greater number of serious fires this year and the drastic increase in firefighter’s calls since 2004.”

He also highlighted that the number of Fire Marshals available to investigate suspicious fires and arsons in New York City has been cut by more than half. In 1994 the FDNY had 292 such investigators; by 2002 the number declined to 177 and in 2006 the FDNY has 122 combined Fire Marshals and Supervising Fire Marshals. This is allowing arsonists and insurance schemers to run free.

Looking Back at the Busiest Year in the 100-plus Years of the FDNY:

In 2005 New York City Firefighters fought a combined 51,395 structural and non-structural fires, which was an increase of 1,247 or 2.5 percent over 2004.

In 2005 Non-Fire Emergencies, including gas leaks, water leaks, and carbon monoxide alarms represented 199,643 emergency calls, an increase of 19,596 or a 10.8 percent increase from 2004. Due to the increasing availability and use of carbon monoxide detectors members of the department have seen an upsurge in emergency calls related to potentially fatal gasses in homes and businesses.

First responder medical emergencies by New York City Firefighters in 2005 rose to 202,526, an increase of 13,364 or more than 7.1 percent from 2004.

For the year 2005 total non-fire emergencies, including medical calls were 402,168, an increase of 32,960 over 2004. This represents an 8.9 percent increase from 2004 to 2005.

The only decrease for firefighters in 2005 came from false alarms, which showed a 13.9 percent fall-off. In 2004 there were 37,332 false alarms reported in the five boroughs, while that number fell to 32,138 in 2005.

After analyzing the radical increases of emergency calls and workload for New York City Firefighters, Mr. Cassidy suggested, "I have said it time-and-again, that in a post 9-11 world as we prepare for the realities and threats that terrorism holds for our city, we need to dedicate more resources to allow firefighters to better protect the citizens of New York not less. To not be prepared to provide the protection New Yorkers need is short changing the public."

The following is a listing of Total Firefighter Emergency Calls in 2005, previously release by the union in January 2006:

2005 2004 Increase / Decrease % Change
Total Firefighter
Responses:
485,702 456,689 +29,013 +6.4%
Total Fires: 51,395 50,148 +1247 +2.5%
Structural Fires: 28,455 27,711 + 744 +2.7%
Non-Structural Fires 22,940 22,437 + 503 +2.2%
Total Non-Fire/Medical
Emergencies
402,169 369,209 +32,960 +8.9%
Non-Fire Emergencies 199,643 180,047 +19,596 +10.8%
Medical Emergencies 202,526 189,162 +13,364 +7.1%
False Alarms 32,138 37,332 - 5194 13.9%