More than two dozen fire stations in New York City were shut down on Saturday due to staff shortages stemming from a COVID-19 vaccine mandate according to angry elected leaders, one of whom called the situation “unconscionable” and warned it could have deadly consequences.
The closures came as FDNY personnel who have yet to get a vaccine battled with city officials over the mandate as they prepare to enforce it come Monday. City employees across all departments who are not vaccinated by then will be placed on unpaid leave, which could put a huge damper on fire, EMS, and police services as thousands of personnel remain unvaccinated.
Many firefighters, in particular, say they have already come down with the coronavirus and therefore have “natural immunity,” negating the need for a vaccine in their view.
U.S. Rep. Nicole Malliotakis, a Republican who represents parts of Staten Island and Brooklyn, has five shuttered firehouses in her district; she is blaming Democratic Mayor Bill de Blasio.
“If someone dies due to a slower emergency response, it’s on Bill de Blasio and his overreaching mandates. I hope this fool fixes it ASAP!” she noted in a tweet containing a video showing one of the closed fire stations housing Ladder 149 in Dyker Heights in Brooklyn.
.@FDNY Ladder 149 in Dyker Heights #Brooklyn was closed today due to Mayor de Blasio’s overreaching vaccine mandate. If he doesn’t reverse course, the city will lose first responders and put New Yorkers in more danger. pic.twitter.com/jVo1WUVkgM
— Nicole Malliotakis (@NMalliotakis) October 30, 2021
“God forbid there is a major fire or a severe car accident…or even worse. God forbid if there is a terrorist attack,” she added.
Some residents also rallied outside of the ladder company in support of the firefighters.
Dyker Heights community is turning out to support the FDNY at E284 L149. Our neighbors welcomed our services during the pandemic & they refuse to lose us. We aren't anti-vaccine & don't hold anyone elses decision against them…. we are anti-mandate. #HoldTheLine #FDNY pic.twitter.com/0powxpEihc
— NYCFireWire (@NYCFireWire) October 30, 2021
But Daniel A. Nigro, FDNY Commissioner, said over the weekend that his department “has not closed any firehouses,” going on to blame firefighters themselves.
“Irresponsible bogus sick leave by some of our members is creating a danger for New Yorkers and their fellow Firefighters,” Nigro noted. “They need to return to work or risk the consequences of their actions.”
“No borough or neighborhood was spared, with the shuttered companies ranging from Engine Co. 55 in lower Manhattan, to Engine Co. 234 in Crown Heights, to Engine Co. 231 in Brownsville,” the New York Post reported.
“Others included Ladder Co. 128 in Long Island City and Engine Co. 158 and Ladder Co. 78 on Staten Island, according to information provided by Malliotakis and Councilman Joe Borelli (R-SI), who cited the Uniformed Firefighters Association. Borelli said the list of 26 came from a FDNY alert dispatched to members,” the paper added.
A spokesman for the FDNY, Jim Long, assured reporters that the closures are not permanent and instead described the affected companies as being “temporarily out of service.” He also described the situation as “fluid” because the department is shifting personnel and units to locations they are needed.
Protestors who were fired for being unvaxx’d are standing tall in front of de Blasio’s house. pic.twitter.com/AjsEzGhPxZ
— Aaron Ginn (@aginnt) October 29, 2021
But as late Saturday afternoon approached, The Post reported that FDNY officials could not give exact numbers of station closings that went into effect by 7:30 a.m. that morning.
“The situation remains fluid. We hire manpower to get the company back in service or relocate other units to the area for coverage,” Long told reporters.
The NYPD’s Emergency Service Unit has asked for volunteer fire personnel from upstate New York and Long Island in order to backfill positions within the FDNY, an email obtained by The Post noted, in anticipation of additional shortages.
But one resident, Vinny Agro, 63, who is retired and lives across the street from one of the shuttered stations housing Engine Co. 284 in Dyker Heights, did not find much comfort in the search for volunteers.
“We’re f- -ked. We are going to toast like marshmallows,” he told The Post. “It’s another sad day for New York City.”
“Most of the houses here are semi-attached frame houses. You throw a match on it, and it goes up real quick,” another resident said, noting that he had not seen firefighters at the engine company for about 24 hours. “You need a quick response . . . it’s scary.”
The closures on Saturday represented less than 8 percent of the city’s 341 ladder and engine companies, but Borelli, chairman of the council’s fire and emergency management committee, said that was still an “unconscionable” statistic.
“The firefighters who are unable to work have all been tested within the week and are not COVID positive, and I doubt New Yorkers care about the vaccine status of the person applying defibrillators to their chest,” he said.
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