Firefighters union opposes mayor`s plan to cut crews - New York News

Firefighters union opposes mayor`s plan to cut crews

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CHICAGO (FOX 32 News) -

The president of the Firefighters Union claims that any reduction in the ranks of the Chicago Fire Department could cost innocent lives.

Union leader Tom Ryan pointed to a new study that found it's best to fight high-rise fires with truck crews of at least five.

The big question is this: with far fewer fires and far fewer fire deaths than ever before, is it time to reduce the size of Chicago's Fire Department? That's what the mayor's proposing in contract talks. The union says no.

How best to fight high-rise fires was the focus of a nationwide study released this week. The National Institute of Standards and Technology found that a five-man crew -- such as Chicago usually deploys now on fire trucks -- was able to complete critical firefighting tasks about nine minutes faster than a four-man crew. The current union contract allows four-person crews on 35 trucks a day, but Chicago Fire Fighters Union argues the so-called "variances" are not safe.

FOX 32's Political Editor Mike Flannery asked the Chicago Firefighters Union President Tom Ryan if anyone has suffered an injury or problems because of the variances.

"Absolutely. We have several instances," Ryan responds. "As a matter of fact, we just sent letters to aldermen throughout the city just last week of incidents, whether they were fires, traffic accidents, where these people were running short-handed. When brothers Ed Stringer and Corey Ankum were killed, there were variances in that response as well."

A spokesman said later that Ryan did not believe the four-person crews caused the deaths of those specific fire fighters, but he said manpower does affect the safety of firefighters and civilians.

Chicago has one of the best fire safety records in America. Fire deaths here have plummeted by 83% since 1976, when 156 perished, to 27 last year. There has been a similar decline in the number of fires, but little reduction in the number of firehouses.

Tom Ryan insists that they can't reduce the number of firehouses despite the drop in fires.

"Absolutely not, because when someone needs a firefighter or needs a paramedic, you need them now," Ryan says.

The Fire Commissioner's office responded to the union president's statements Friday night, saying, "The number of firefighters dispatched to that fire had nothing to do with the tragic roof failure that took the lives of Corey Ankum and Ed Stringer, two Chicago heroes who gave their lives serving our city. A federal report done by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) found staffing levels were never a condition or factor in this tragedy. To suggest otherwise is offensive and dishonorable to the memory of these men."

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