Firefighters still warning about fire station changes


Despite reassurances from the city, the firefighters union continues to maintain residents of Midtown may feel the effects of a pumper being moved from the Westport fire station.

Concern began last month, when it was reported that of two pumper companies currently operating out of Westport Station #19 at 550 W. 43rd Street, one pumper truck and crew will be moved to another station on June 30. That means other fire units including the pumper assigned to station will have to cover for pumper 32.

The plan also calls for closing State 1 at the former Richards-Gebaur Air Force Base.

“We wish to emphasize that Fire Station #19 remains open and well-staffed, with a ladder truck, pumper company, ambulance and chief’s truck. The only change is that instead of two pumpers, it will have one,” City spokesman Chris Hernandez said in a statement last week.

Although no firefighters will lose their jobs, the firefighters union contends the moving of pumper 32 could be significant, as that truck has handled response to calls south of St. Luke’s Hospital, including the Plaza and north Brookside.

Michael Cambiano, president of firefighters union 42, says he thinks there are three main reasons Midtown residents should be aware of the change.

“First, the population density is high here; higher than in other parts of the city,” he said.

Also, he says the infrastructure is extremely old and there are multifamily buildings without fire suppression systems. And finally, Cambiano argues, the Westport fire station may be the busiest in the state, with 2400 calls a year, while will have to be absorbed by other companies.

Although the union has raised these concerns to the public, the city continues to argue Midtown will have full coverage.

“We have full confidence in the ability of the fire department to carry out its public safety mission and provide full coverage to all neighborhoods while making these adjustments,” the city said in its statement.

The city also says that the union agreed to the changes in its last negotiations with the city. Hernandez says a one-time federal SAFER grant allowed a two-year delay by funding pumper 32, but the grant is no longer available.

“It is now time to move forward with the plan that Local 42 committed to in 2012,” his statement said.

Cambiano acknowledges that the union agreed to moving the pumper, but says in his opinion, the city should provide essential services like fire protection before spending money on other things.

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