Fire Union, Neighbors Rally For Engine 9

Markeshia Ricks PhotoFirefighters and some Edgewood neighbors pushed back at a rally Monday afternoon against the Harp administration’s plans to remove Engine 9 from the Ellsworth Avenue firehouse.

With the sounds of the Caribbean Vibe Steel Drum Band as a backdrop, more than 100 firefighters and neighbors gathered at the firehouse Monday to sign a petition and to call on Mayor Toni Harp to reconsider a plan that she argues will will not only save the city money, but also save more lives. The administration, after a lengthy planning process, decided it made more sense to have an ambulance stationed on the west side of the town rather than two full trucks, since the majority of calls that come in are for medical assistance.

New Haven Fire Fighters Local 825 President Frank Ricci said at the rally that he believes that the mayor has been given some bad information and the union is ready to sit down with her at any time to discuss the matter. He joked that he doesn’t enjoy calling press conferences; he enjoys crashing them.

But he said it was necessary to let downtown know that the neighborhood and the firefighters are in accord and they make their feelings known to Harp. He encouraged people to email and tweet City Hall. Acting Fire Chief Matt Marcarelli attended the rally in support.

“Every neighborhood deserves to have a neighborhood fire engine,” Ricci said. “All they’d have to do, without even increasing the budget, is to simply add on an additional emergency unit to enhance our paramedic service and insure that every neighborhood has a fire engine that can respond to medicals and fires.”

Ricci said it wouldn’t cost the city more money because the administration is already hiring paramedics and the positions are in the current budget.

“We’re not at full staff right now,” he said. Ricci accused city officials of “neighborhood shopping” on a quest to cut an engine from a neighborhood firehouse. He said a similar attempt was made in East Rock a few years ago.

Neighbor William Stancil, who signed the petition, said he could attest to the quickness and efficiency of Engine 9’s service.

Stancil, who has lived in the neighborhood for 13 years, said he had a neighbor who was sick and needed help.

“I went right over to the fire house and they came to help,” he said.

His wife, Serease Kittrell, said she feels safer knowing that the fire engine is right in the neighborhood.

“You get a real safe feeling when you know they are so close by,” she said.

In addition to neighbors like Stancil and Kittrell, neighborhood movers and shakers like former Alder Liz McCormack and Rabbi Daniel Greer came to show their support for keeping Engine 9 in the neighborhood.

The Administration’s Side

 

A Harp administration committee, which included two former fire chiefs, drew up a plan to put Engine 9 out of commission at the Ellsworth Avenue firehouse and replace it with a smaller paramedic unit. An estimated 75 to 80 percent of the approximately 25,000 calls that come into the fire department each year are for medical services. The administration argues that it will cost less—and get firefighters there more quickly—to send the smaller ambulances. It is seeking to increase from two to four the number of department ambulances in the city. The west side of town currently doesn’t have one in operation.

It costs $750,000 to $800,000 to purchase and then fully outfit an engine, according to emergency management chief Rick Fontana, a member of the committee that drew up the plan. Four firefighters are needed to operate it. The two new paramedic units recently purchased by the city cost $55,000 and $90,000, he said.

Harp argued on a recent edition of WNHH radio’s “Mayor Monday” that the big engines wear out faster by being sent unnecessarily to medical calls, and they’re harder to navigate through narrow streets, especially in winter.

The proposed change “actually is a more efficient way to carry out the business of the fire department,” Harp said. “I don’t understand why the leadership of the fire union doesn’t get that, and why they are stoking fears in people. It is irresponsible and unacceptable to me that they are doing that. ... We are actually making people safer.”

The Ellsworth firehouse is one of only two of 10 in the city to have both an engine company and a squad truck. The Harp administration plans to keep Squad 2 at the firehouse. It will serve as the neighborhood’s fire truck to respond quickly to fires, Fontana said.

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posted by: AverageTaxpayer on September 12, 2016  6:09pm

The disinformation aside, this isn’t closing the Ellsworth firehouse. Instead it’s replacing one of the fire engines with a paramedic squad.

I hope the NHI and the Harp administration might give us a full-scale examination of our budget for fire protection. Is it as “fat” as many people suggest? Is there no way to pare down costs while maintaining an adequate level of protection?

What I know is that our property taxes are ridiculously high. Where else in America do you pay 3% of what your house is worth, just in city taxes? ($6,000/yr on a $200,000 house.) The high taxes are particularly hard on our elderly, trying to get by on fixed incomes. It is also a drag on future development, and a disincentive to companies that might otherwise locate in New Haven.

Of course none of that matters to the fire fighters, the vast majority of whom live outside of New Haven!

posted by: 1644 on September 12, 2016  6:18pm

All these anecdotes are from neighbors who needed an ambulance, not a fire truck.  The firefighters that arrived on a truck were a stop-gap, but would those folks have been better off with an ambulance staffed with paramedics?  Most fire departments these days realize they are in the EMS/ambulance business, not the firefighting business.  New Haven needs to align its resources and training to the demand: more paramedics and ambulances, fewer fire trucks and firefighters who are not paramedics.

posted by: Peter99 on September 12, 2016  7:13pm

Squad 2 is NOT a neighborhood fire engine, engine 9 is. Squad 2 covers the entire west side of the city, and more often than not will be on a call far away from the neighborhood. Minutes count when there is a fire. Waiting an extra two minutes can mean the difference between living and dying. Do not let the politicians fool you.

posted by: Renewhavener on September 12, 2016  9:05pm

Interesting collection of luminaries at this event.

posted by: Bobbarns on September 13, 2016  6:32am

I can say one thing Harp never wins against the unions! Why does she keep trying then?

posted by: Think About It on September 13, 2016  7:13am

@ Average Taxpayer and 1644—in response to your budgetary woes.  Eliminating engine 9 and placing 2 members to do the job of 6, is not moving a fiscal mountain and saving you any real money.  The only savings you will see is the difference in pay between 3 captains and a privates pay, and one lieutenant and a privates pay—a mere $25,000—but I guess to you that is what is breaking your bank. 
Now for this $25,000 in savings, you get a less timely response to your home, thereby all but guaranteeing that CPR, Narcan, and airway management are all done outside of the 4-6 minute critical “brain death” window.  And being carried out of your home in these situations becomes a safety issue when there are only 2 members—put yourself in their shoes.  You are on a 3rd floor of a typical New Haven residence and you have to be carried down those narrow stairs—do you think the 2 members can safely do that while holding the IV bag, heart monitor, oxygen, and any other devices in operation to provide care?  If you do, then you truly have no idea what this care entails.  The FD already does more with less, and now uninformed people like you want firefighters and paramedics to do even more with less, and will be the first people to bitch & complain when they fail at what they do.  Your opinions are understandable from those who chronically complain about issues they know nothing about. 
But alas—the NHFD does 26,000+ calls per year, and 6,500 of those calls are strictly fire related, where a Paramedic Unit can do absolutely nothing.  Of the remaining 19,500 calls, a large percentage are motor vehicle accidents, car extrications and a slew of other calls that require the response of a fire engine, many times along with a Paramedic Unit.  So to think that a business where seconds count can eliminate apparatus and not have negative consequence to outmode is penny foolish and pound foolish.  When the smartest Operational Chief says it is irresponsible and reckless, who’s right?

posted by: Think About It on September 13, 2016  7:20am

And to Rick Fontana’s cost projection, his numbers stated are an immediate lie.  His cost to staff a paramedic unit, although less than an engine initially, over the long run, it has been shown that through maintenance, and faster apparatus replacement, the long term cost is more expansion than an engine company.

Also—to buy the Paramedic Units they have, which are far from top quality, may cost $50-90k for the piece, but all of the gear costs and additional $100,000, so the true cost of a new Paramedic Unit is between $150-190k, not the lean number he uses.  But I guess he just an’t stop lying. 

And LOL Mayor Harp—you and a bunch of City Staffers think you know more than the front line members of the Fire Department.  The ones who see first hand at the already mismanaged Fire Department both you and John Destefano created.  The lack of leadership you have chronically installed in the FD, and continue to do with this new selection—a Chief who has an extreme minimal exposure to EMS, over two candidates who have been parts of Paramedic serviced FD’s.  But I guess two of the worst Chief’s the NHFD has seen, along with some pencil pushers and a guy who never “made it” in the Fire Service and now wants to act like a Chief know better than all the “real Chiefs” and hard-working men & women of the NHFD.  What a joke!

posted by: alphabravocharlie on September 13, 2016  8:44am

I always thought the function of emergency management was to support first responders. Seems like there’s some mission creep taking place here.

posted by: Noteworthy on September 13, 2016  9:58am

Chicken Little Notes:

1. Acting Fire Chief Matt Marcarelli should be fired for insubordination. This was not done without him knowing it.

2. Union big Ricci - just like the union always does, is crying wolf and screaming that the sky is falling all at the same time. This is just fear mongering to the uninformed and ignorant in order to protect the status quo.

3. For years, the number of incidents requiring a fire truck has been dwindling but the NHFD has still responded to every call, even ones it knew was a medical emergency, with fire trucks, fully loaded with equipment and personnel. This is a gross waste of money in the name of same old, same old.

4. In this case, the Harp House is correct - enough eyes have looked at this to determine we need more ambulance coverage and frankly, that service should be transporting as well instead of handing it off to the robber barons at AMR.

5. Change is hard. This is one change that is not only long overdue - it’s a change that could provide real and substantial savings to the beleaguered taxpayers. More ambulances should be added - and there, my friends, is why they’re screaming so loudly.

posted by: Bobbarns on September 13, 2016  11:33am

@Noteworthy you need to work on your facts before you speak sir. The acting chief was at that press conference! And for a matter of the fact even blasted the plan to get rid of the fire engine earlier in the day! And how are you suppose to carry someone down 3 flights of stairs with only 2 people who also need to carry the medical equipment and provide care!

posted by: Noteworthy on September 13, 2016  2:17pm

Bob -

Figure it out. There are many fire departments across the country who successfully deploy ambulances vs. fire trucks. Call them out and ask them what they do. Simple.

As for the Acting Chief - He’s part of the administration now. He should act like it.

posted by: Stu71 on September 13, 2016  6:13pm

Noteworthy.. At what point has Assistant Chief Marcarelli been insubordinate? His job is to carry out and responsible for daily operations within the fire department at his discretion. If he feels a plan is unsafe or detrimental to the public or his department he has every right to come forward and state so.
Perhaps you may want to do your homework in regards to departments only using ambulances to respond to medical emergencies. In a suburban setting it maybe sufficient but in a city that has typically New England style homes of 3 floors it doesn’t cut it. You place the patient and crews at risk for injury and the level of care is mediocre at best. I would think the citizens would want the best care possible , such as the system that is currently in place.

posted by: just my view on September 13, 2016  6:24pm

Someone needs to speak to the EMTs/Medics @ AMR to find out how many times in a week FD personnel actually assist carry a patient down from an upper floor. Not nearly as many times as Ricci is wanting people to believe. Heck. I’ve seen times where the FD unit personnel are back in their apparatus before the patient is actually removed form the house.

Honest question out of curiousity - does Ricci reside in New Haven? Not that he can’t represent the best interest of the fire service members but does a fair job of lambasting Fontana for being a West Haven resident.

posted by: Noteworthy on September 13, 2016  7:15pm

Stu -

I love how those of you who never seem to have lived anywhere else but here, somehow think that this is the only place with three floor walkups - and therefore, there is no way for ambulance personnel to carry a person down. There is no reason to have mediocre care from the NHFD - not when it has the budget it does.

As for the Assist. Chief - he is administration now. If he has a concern - take to his superiors at City Hall. Sit down and make his case. He doesn’t need to participate in this sideshow a/k/a sky is falling.

posted by: Sheldonblackwood09 on September 14, 2016  5:10am

@noteworthy, the Assistant Chief is a union member, he will say what needs to be said. He’s not part of the administration and is merely a standin until the new overpaid inexperienced full time chief who takes over.

Fontana is not the department spokesman. There is enough talent in the fire department leadership to make these decisions without him interfering. What neighborhood do you live in? Maybe we can close your firehouse and save some money there?

posted by: Noteworthy on September 15, 2016  10:02am

Sheldon:

You are welcome to remove an engine from the Westville neighborhood if it is in the best interests of the department and the city taxpayers. I don’t care if there are three trucks there or one. What I don’t want is a waste of our hard earned money and a head in the sand, xxx in the air mentality that has surrounded nearly every department in this city. It is paralyzed with status quo or in the other direction - pie in the sky that says we’ll create the ultimate mecca.

I just want a city that is well run, clean and safe - one that educates our kids well and does so at a cost point below private school.

Just this morning, a fire truck with a full compliment of employees roared down Whalley Avenue to go to the Three Judges hotel - 20 minutes later they’re gone, AMR is in place. No smoke, no fire but a lot of resources for nothing. This is what we’re talking about and what is the focus of this change.

It is nothing short of hokus pocus to think this needs to continue.

posted by: Stu71 on September 15, 2016  10:35am

Noteworthy
You must have an extensive background when it comes to firefighting and EMS to post a comment that all those resources are unnecessary. People roll out that door wether it is 4 or 6 members not knowing what they will pull up to because every call is different. So until you have to make a life and death decision at someone else’s expense you will never know how much personnel it takes to carry out a task.

posted by: Noteworthy on September 15, 2016  1:17pm

Stu:

I don’t need all that experience to know that if you have a medical call - no smoke, no fire - and no ability to transport and minimal ability to treat - that you don’t need a fire truck with four or six people on it. There is an irrationality to saying “you never know what you’ll run into” and “life and death decisions.” I have great respect for the fire department and what it does - but I also have great respect for common sense, for good utilization and husbanding resources so we are not rolling trucks when none are needed. Assume the worst outcome in order to justify rolling stock and status quo? No. There is clear, demonstrable need for more ambulance service. It can be done for a fraction of the cost and we’d be able to cut down on the need for AMR, the fees of whom are staggeringly high.