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Mount Vernon Fire Union Chief Warns Department Is Short-Staffed

Assessment Following Fatal Fire; Mayor Rejects Claim
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The scene of a deadly fire in Mount Vernon, NY on Tuesday, Oct. 29, 2013. (credit: CBS 2)

The scene of a deadly fire in Mount Vernon, NY on Tuesday, Oct. 29, 2013. (credit: CBS 2)

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MOUNT VERNON, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) – A possible manpower shortage at the Mount Vernon firehouse may have contributed to a fatal house fire this week.

As WCBS 880′s Sean Adams reported, a typical fire engine needs four firefighters when responding to a blaze but the first engine that arrived at 11 South Bond Street on Tuesday had two.

Mount Vernon fire union president Ernie Richardson said the fire department is short-staffed and as a result, crews couldn’t run a hose line and execute a search until reinforcements arrived.

“I understand the city’s in dire straits and this is no personal attack on the mayor; the central services should not be messed with. You need to keep these things at the adequate staffing levels,” Richardson told Adams. “This is strictly business and understanding that we need to keep these people safe. And we’ve got to be safe, too.”

Mount Vernon Mayor Ernest Davis told the Journal News that the fire department ranks are not too thin. Davis added the city doesn’t have the finances to cover new hires.

“All I see as a union president is that we’re not getting the essential needs to help these people,” said Richardson.

Nine people escaped from the burning home on Tuesday but four others were trapped in a smoke-filled basement and died.

Relatives identified the dead as Alcedo Urena, in his 60s, his 39-year-old wife Nancy Urena and their children, 21-year-old Jesus Urena and 19-year-old Mariselis Urena.

Mount Vernon Fire Victims (credit: CBS 2)

Mount Vernon Fire Victims (credit: CBS 2)

Their youngest son, 17-year-old Raymundo, is recovering from serious burns.

“The two oldest ones got out, but went back to get their mother and father,” said Richard Fernandez, Alcedo Urena’s grandson. “They fainted in there.”

The family of four only had one way out of the basement, which was blocked by smoke and flames. A second door was locked on both sides, hampering firefighters’ efforts to rescue them.

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