NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – One New York City firefighter — who was among 5 injured Monday morning while battling a blaze at a Crown Heights apartment — is clinging to life. The aftermath of the blaze has also prompted criticism from the firefighter’s union.
Firefighter Rob Weidman remains in critical condition after sustaining burns to over 40 percent of his body, including his head, face and back. Firefighter Jim Gersbeck, 52, was also listed in serious condition.
Both were being treated at the Burn Center at New York Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical Center. Three other firefighters suffered minor injuries and were taken to area hospitals.
Meanwhile, firefighters and family members held a vigil for the injured men on Monday night.
1010 WINS’ Al Jones Reports From Cornell Medical Center
In total, 12 units and about 100 firefighters responded to the fire on the 3rd floor of the Prospect Place brownstone.
1010 WINS’ Terry Sheridan reports
“When I looked it had about two firemen went in there and one of them actually caught on fire — and it scared me. All I say was ‘help him, help him’ and tears started coming to my eyes. They got him out on the ladder, they had to put him out on the ladder because his whole body was on fire,” witness Apryl Johnson told CBS 2′s Mark Morgan.
“One was hanging out the window with fire all over him and the other one came out the front door,” one man told 1010 WINS’ Terry Sheridan. “My heart was in my throat.”
Steve Cassidy, of the Uniformed Firefighter’s Association, said the severe injuries would have been avoided if not for budget cuts that shrunk 5-man crews to 4-man units.
“The staffing had been cut on February 1. The direct result is it took over 1 minute extra to get water on the fire. If 234 had been fully staffed, we wouldn’t have 2 firefighters in the burn center today. None of this would have happened. One firefighter’s life is hanging in the balance right now because of Bloomberg administration cuts to firefighter staffing,” Cassidy said.
The FDNY responded to Cassidy’s comments, saying there were multiple units on the scene within 3 minutes after officials received the call. In addition, the FDNY said that firefighters put water on the fire three minutes after arriving on the scene, adding that the amount of time it took to get water on the fire was efficient.
The cause of the two-alarm fire which broke out just after 9 a.m. is under investigation.