Union president blames staffing for Amsterdam Fire Department missing calls

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AMSTERDAM, N.Y. (NEWS10) – Since Friday, the Amsterdam Fire Department has missed two calls, according to the department’s union president. Due to limitations on how many firefighters can work per shift, the department is relying on outside entities to answer calls if all Amsterdam’s units are dispatched. Sometimes, however, those outside agencies, known as mutual aid companies, are not always available.

“Between 3 and 4 o’clock in the morning there were three EMS calls,” Amsterdam Professional Firefighter’s president Michael Demars says about missing a call on Friday, November 5. “We only had two units in service because that’s where the cuts come into play. We couldn’t answer the third call. Somebody called 911 and they needed our help and we couldn’t.”

Demars says because of budget cuts several years ago, the previous mayoral administration placed a limit on five firefighters per shift. The department has room for eight, he says.

Demars says he is not looking for city hall to add more positions, rather, for the city to allow the department to fully staff the positions it already has available per shift. Even if that means adding one more firefighter. In regards to fighting a fire and making entry, The Occupational Safety and Health Administration says there must be at least “two ‘outside’ (standby) persons (in addition to the minimum of two persons inside needed to fight the fire) must be present before fire fighters may enter the building.”

“Once you backfill us and commit to having our six per day and our three units in service, they can use the rest of that revenue to solve whatever problems they [city hall] need(s). Take care of what they need to but we need to be taken care of for our safety and the safety of the citizens of Amsterdam,” Demars explains.

The reason Demars mentions six per day is so if there are multiple calls, two may go with the ambulance service while the other four can respond to a fire and make entry if possible.

Mayor Michael Cinquanti says he has not had an opportunity to discuss the department missing calls with his fire chief. The mayor tells News10 he is working with the chief to come up with a plan that “all parties feel safer and more satisfied with and one we can feel confident we can afford to sustain not just not but long into the future.”

After the department missed a call on Friday, Demars took to the union’s Facebook page to explain the situation.

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