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Firefighters union raises staffing concerns following deadly fire

Posted: 11:32 PM, Jan 24, 2020
Updated: 2020-01-24 23:32:15-05

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WKBW) — The Buffalo firefighters union is raising concerns about staffing policy following the deadly Friday morning Winslow Avenue fire.

Engine 21, located about a mile away from the fire, was closed due to dynamic staffing. That's the term to describe shutting down one fire company, when a certain number of firefighters in the city call in sick. There's a rotating schedule that decides what fire company closes for the shift. The policy has the firefighters union and the city at odds.

Buffalo Professional Firefighters President Vincent Ventresca said dynamic staffing effects response times. Buffalo Fire Commissioner William Renaldo said it does not have any effect on response times.

Ventresca is not linking dynamic staffing to 84 year old Charle Alexis' death, but he said Engine 21 would have brought needed water to the scene quickly.

"In this case they went in and did an aggressive search without a handline and those efforts were thwarted by the heat and the fire, and they were forced from the building," Ventresca said. "That's what it took them to stop searching, the heat and the fire."

Renaldo said the water line was not a problem.

"We had over 50 firefighters respond to that fire, well within the national standards time limit," Renaldo said.

Renaldo said the first crew arrived in 1:43, and the first engine was there in under 4:00.

He said dynamic staffing has been used about 135 times since July 1st, meaning there was a closed fire company about 65 percent of the time.