2012-01-06 / Letters

Fire Protection In The Rockaways

Dear Editor,

In this holy and happy season of Hanukkah and Christmas, I would l ike to bring the attention of our neighbors to the recent tragedy in Brooklyn where two firefighters were injured, one critically with over 40 percent burns to his body (head, neck, torso). (He actually dove out of a window on fire, onto an extended aerial ladder.)

Before any more families of firemen or victims of fires suffer, allow me to point out how this situation might have been avoided. It’s called “staffing.”

Years ago, the New York Post had an editorial claiming that the assertions of the United Firefighters Association (UFA) demanding five man engine companies was basically a call for “featherbedding” in the FDNY. The Post claimed that this manning the UFA called for was an attempt to hire and closet unnecessary employees that in turn would increase the UFA’s coffers due to union dues.

Hogwash! Studies have been done and redone regarding the speed at which water is put on the fire.

When the Mayor states that reducing the manning on an FDNY engine and the dispatch of a second engine at the same time on the same alarm increases the safety of our citizens (2 engines with 4 firefighters vs. one engine with 5 firefighters) he is playing with reality.

Whether the first due engine arrives with 5 FFs (firefighters) or 4 FFs or even 1 FF, is not the point. The engine will get to the scene at the time expected. However, how fast can the water be applied to the fire?

Studies by the Rand Corporation have shown that fire expands exponentially every two minutes. With five FFs vs. four FFs the importance of speed is crucial. Water to the fire can be applied 25% faster with the five person crew. Regardless of the distance to the fire location (in this case the building on fire was very close to the re-sponding firehouse) or the location of the fire hydrant (again very close to the building fire), once on the scene the importance of water on the fire is critical. The city points out how fast the units arrived. Again that is not the point but rather the speed of application of water onto the fire.

Now, let us assume that there is a fire somewhere here in Rockaway. For the case of argument let’s say it is on the top floor of a building on the boulevard in the 90s. E-266, first due, is responding with 4 firefighters. Considering that the driver is the one to connect to the hydrant and one member must assist him in “flaking” the line, we have now 2 members actually stretching the hose. They arrive quite quickly, go into operation and advance their hoseline. E-268, second due, is about a mile away. At top speed, with no lights to hinder them, they should arrive in about 2 minutes. By now the fire has increased exponentially to twice its’ size. Again, this is considering that E-266 was not out at a prior alarm or that E-268 also was otherwise not busy. If both were at work elsewhere, which would usually also involve E-265, from Edgemere, the first arriving engine could quite possibly be E-331 from Howard Beach, a time line of about ten minutes.

The addition of the fifth man to the staffing of FDNY engines is not a redundancy or “featherbedding.” It is critical to the safety of our neighbors and the Firefighters who put their safety on the line every moment of every day to keep us safe. If any reader would like more information of the rapid speed of fire vs. the number of firefighters to fight it please visit: http://www.iaff.org/tech/PDF/NISTRe port2010.pdf This is a study conducted by the National Institute of Standards and Technology.

SHAUN REEN

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