Buffalo Fire Department in US sees 20 injuries in one week
In five separate incidents over one week from 11 July 2019, 20 fire fighters of the Buffalo Fire Department in New York State, have been injured. At least 15 Buffalo fire fighters suffered injuries battling three separate residential fires in a 24-hour span, including several with heat exhaustion. Then two fire fighters were injured while battling a residential fire late on Sunday, 14 July 2019, making it 17 of the department's fire fighters hurt. Crews responded to the blaze in Buffalo's Black Rock neighbourhood just before 23h00. The fire broke out at one home before spreading to a neighbouring residence. The hurt fire fighters were taken to the hospital and the extent of their injuries was not known. The cause of the fire is currently under investigation. On Monday morning, 15 July 2019, fire fighters were called out yet again; this time, to battle a blaze on Goembel Street in the city's Walden-Bailey neighbourhood.
A chief on the scene said the fast-moving fire broke out in the attic. The cause is not known at this time. The only person home at the time got out unhurt. However, three firefighters were taken to hospital for minor injuries.
Buffalo Fire Commissioner Bill Renaldo says in the last week, injuries have ranged from heat exhaustion, to sprains, strains and minor burns. “At least one eye injury as well," said Renaldo. The City says at least half of the injuries have been heat related, and there have been a number of two-alarm fires within a short period of time. "It's par for the course with the weather and the amount of fires," Renaldo said.
“Fire fighting is a dangerous job, and we’ve obviously had a rash of fires,” said Buffalo Professional Fire Fighters Local 282 President Vincent Ventresca said. Both Renaldo and Ventresca say they don’t view the injuries as anything “out of the ordinary.” Renaldo says with summer conditions of heat, fire fighters tend to get exhausted quicker.
While Ventresca doesn’t believe physical fitness played a role in these injuries, he notes it’s important for city fire fighters to stay in shape and agile. Ventresca says Local 282 has proposed a “physical wellness program” that he says has “fallen on deaf ears” with the City. “There are gyms and equipment in every fire house but the fire fighters have no initiative to use the equipment and we’ve had issues in the past where fire fighters have used the equipment and they’ve been injured using it and they’ve been denied on duty injury status. We don’t think that’s acceptable,” he said.
Ventresca said Local 282 has tried to negotiate some type of wellness and physical training with the city but hasn’t had much success. “When fire fighters are exercising and taking care of themselves the actual amount of catastrophic injuries goes down,” he said. “We won’t lose the man hours that we’re losing right now.”
Ventresca says some type of physical wellness initiative could include a “stipend” for fire fighters to be recognised for keeping active and working out. He says through a potential program, the union wants the city to recognise when members of the department are safe doing this training. “Some type of stipend where the city can say ‘hey, take great care of yourself, in the long run this is going to save us money,” he said.
“We’re also in our efforts working toward emotional and mental health wellness of our membership,” Ventresca said. “We’ve put together peer counseling team, we have our own EAP (employee assistance program) just for the union.”
Commissioner Renaldo says he agrees with this initiative. "It could be very beneficial and that's why we're having these ongoing talks," he said of the physical wellness initiative. "A lot of it is technique too, doing things we do on the fire ground, so to teach that along with general physical fitness it would be great." The Commissioner says talks with the union on this issue are ongoing