News

Exclusive: Official Says UES Synagogue Fire Example Of Why FDNY Can’t Be Cut

Mayor Bloomberg Implored To Reconsider Any Future Closing Plans
View Comments
Upper East Side synagogue fire

Witness Lee Stahl captured this image of a raging fire at the Congregation Kehilath Jeshurun synagogue on the Upper East Side on July 11, 2011.. (Credit: Lee Stahl)

Marcia Kramer thumbnail Marcia Kramer
Marcia Kramer joined CBS 2 in 1990 as an investigative and political...
Read More

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — There were charges Wednesday that the FDNY is stretched so thin that response times to a fire at an historic Upper East Side synagogue were agonizingly long and well above normal response times.

The voice of a child is heard on home video of the recent fire at the Kehilith Jeshurun synagogue, asking the question Mayor Michael Bloomberg should be asking himself:

“Where’s the fire department, mom?”

Despite clouds of billowing black smoke the first fire engine didn’t arrive for 6 minutes, 55 seconds. The average response time for Manhattan fires is 4:08.

“It’s a warning to the mayor,” Al Hagan, president of the Uniformed Fire Officers Association, told CBS 2’s Marcia Kramer. “We’re as thin as we can get and effectively provide protection for the people of this city.”

Response time was delayed because the neighborhood fire company was fighting another fire, the replacement engine was 35 blocks away and the ladder company had to come from the West Side. Also, the battalion chief got to the fire four minutes before the fire engine, but was left with the frustration of calling and calling for help.

Hagan said in a city like New York there are always multiple fires – something Bloomberg should take into account before moving to close fire companies.

“If they decide to cut more fire houses it will be civic insanity,” Hagan said. “It’s morally bankrupt. It’s morally bankrupt.”

Sources told Kramer that City Hall has signaled its intention to try to close fire houses again next year, but a mayoral spokesman Marc Lavorgna said that’s just speculation.

“We have achieved all-time record levels of fire safety during this administration,” Lavorgna said, “and we will continue to do all we can to continue the record of success in protecting New Yorkers.”

But the head of the City Council’s Fire Safety Committee said she’s worried.

“This is a sad reminder of how stretched our fire department currently is and how they’re working harder than ever before,” Councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley said.

The synagogue fire went to four alarms and took 170 firefighters to bring under control.

Unless there’s an unexpected uptick in the economy the city anticipates a $5 billion deficit in next year’s budget.

Please offer your thoughts in the comments section below.

View Comments