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Firefighters: Staffing Cuts A Matter Of Life & Death

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Firefighters stand at firehouse Engine 66/Ladder 61 in the Bronx. (Mario Tama/Getty Images)

Firefighters stand at firehouse Engine 66/Ladder 61 in the Bronx. (Mario Tama/Getty Images)

Al Jones Al Jones
A native of Grand Forks, North Dakota, Al Jones has been with 1010...
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NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) — Firefighter unions are trying to reverse a cost-cutting measure that would thin staffing levels at 60 New York City firehouses starting Tuesday.

The Uniformed Firefighters Association and the Uniformed Fire Officers Association have filed an action with the city’s Office of Collective Bargaining seeking to keep staffing at the current level.

UFA President Steve Cassidy told reporters including 1010 WINS’ Al Jones the cuts will result in “more injuries for firefighters, more injuries and/or deaths for civilians.”

1010 WINS’ Al Jones speaks with firefighters union president Steve Cassidy

Under an agreement that expires Monday, 60 engine companies in the busiest city areas have five-person crews. The rest have four-person crews.

Fire Commissioner Salvatore Cassano says all engines will be staffed with four firefighters and one lieutenant beginning Tuesday. He says the FDNY just recorded “the fewest fire deaths on record” and has the fastest response time ever.

The unions say the changes could result in trapped or unconscious people not being found in fires and argued they would double the amount of time needed to get water on a fire.

“One thing is certain, we will have larger, expansive fires,” Cassidy said.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg said Monday that if the city loses the lawsuit, he believes it “would have to close firehouses.”

“The fire department is going to have to spend less money just like police and sanitation and corrections and everything else,” Bloomberg said.

There was mixed reaction Monday in neighborhoods that would be directly affected by the changes.

“It’s understandable that someone’s staff as well as the fire department, which was built up over the years, has to take a hit along with everyone else,” one Chelsea resident told CBS 2’s Pablo Guzman.

“Our state’s in a lot of trouble right now so I’m sure they’re trying to find ways to get rid of some expensive employees,” one woman said adding she was “a little skeptical” about the move.

Think the FDNY is getting the short end of the stick on this one? What about city residents? Let us know what you think in our comments section below.

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