BUFFALO, N.Y. (WKBW) — 20 Buffalo city firefighters have been injured on the job in the last week.
Thursday, 7 Eyewitness News reported a firefighter had to be rushed on a stretcher from a blaze on Frankfort. Division fire chief Daniel Bossi said a first year firefighter from Engine 22 lost consciousness.
At that point last week, Fire Commissioner Bill Renaldo said there had been 15 firefighters injured fighting three, two alarm fires since the night before.
Now, five more of Buffalo’s bravest have been injured in the last 24 hours. Two were hurt fighting a blaze on Gelston Street late Sunday night, and three battling a fire on Goembel Avenue Monday morning.
Buffalo Fire Commissioner Bill Renaldo says in the last week, injuries have ranged from heat exhaustion, to sprains, strains and minor burns.
“At least one eye injury as well," said Renaldo.
The City says at least half of the injuries have been heat related, and there have been a number of two-alarm fires within a short period of time.
"It's par for the course with the weather and the amount of fires," Renaldo said.
“Firefighting is a dangerous job, and we’ve obviously had a rash of fires,” said Buffalo Professional Firefighters Local 282 President Vincent Ventresca said.
Both Renaldo and Ventresca say they don’t view the injuries as anything “out of the ordinary.” Renaldo says with summer conditions of heat, firefighters tend to get exhausted quicker.
While Ventresca doesn’t believe physical fitness played a role in these injuries, he notes it’s important for city firefighters to stay in shape and agile. Ventresca says Local 282 has proposed a “physical wellness program” that he says has “fallen on deaf ears” with the City.
“There are gyms and equipment in every fire house, but the firefighters have no initiative to use the equipment and we’ve had issues in the past where firefighters have used the equipment and they’ve been injured using it, and they’ve been denied on duty injury status. We don’t think that’s acceptable,” he said.
Ventresca said Local 282 has tried to negotiate some type of wellness and physical training with the city, but hasn’t had much success.
“When firefighters are exercising and taking care of themselves the actual amount of catastrophic injuries goes down,” he said. “We won’t lose the man hours that we’re losing right now.”
Ventresca says some type of physical wellness initiative could include a “stipend” for firefighters to be recognized for keeping active and working out. He says through a potential program, the union wants the city to recognize when members of the department are safe doing this training.
“Some type of stipend where the city can say ‘hey, take great care of yourself, in the long run this is going to save us money,” he said.
“We’re also in our efforts working toward emotional and mental health wellness of our membership,” Ventresca said. “We’ve put together peer counseling team, we have our own EAP (employee assistance program) just for the union.”
Commissioner Renaldo says he agrees with this initiative.
"It could be very beneficial and that's why we're having these ongoing talks," he said of the physical wellness initiative. "A lot of it is technique too, doing things we do on the fire ground, so to teach that along with general physical fitness it would be great."
The Commissioner says talks with the union on this issue are ongoing.