TROY, N.Y. (NEWS10) — In one week, Troy’s fire company responding to four late-night fires back to back and they’re feeling the strain now that the ambulance dubbed “Medic 3” has been moved off the night shift.
“We could have used another ambulance to treat and transport people rather than take guys on scene off the fire duty to put them on the ambulance. There’s no one to replace them doing the [firefighting] job,” explains Troy Uniformed Firefighters Association President Eric Wisher.
“You can only stretch the rubber band so far before it snaps, right? We think we’re putting a price on people’s lives, the citizens lives and the firefighters lives in the city,” he goes on to say.
As NEWS10 has reported, the four ambulance overnight fleet was reduced by one at the end of December. Troy Mayor Patrick Madden has previously said “Medic 3” moving to the overnights was always temporary while construction was completed at the Canal Avenue fire house.
However, Wisher says the recent rash of fires are a prime example why more staff is needed. He says he wants Troy to reduce the demand on the already limited fire crews to a reasonable level.
“Sometimes our guys do 12 or 15 calls, they fight a fire for three hours, and then they’re expected to do five or six more calls,” Wisher says to NEWS10’s Mikhaela Singleton.
He says he petitioned city council for more budget funding for hiring, reporting since 1996 the municipal fire staff has remained at 24, but calls have gone up from 5,900 to 13,817 in 2022. He further compared the situation to nearby Colonie EMS.
“Colonie runs 14 ambulances for the same amount of calls we run only using three ambulances,” he says.
Wisher says he predicts calls will go up another 1,000 as the city prepares to introduce more housing.
“The mayor talked about 700 more units of housing in his state of the city. There’s probably another 1,200 on the planning and zoning board prior to that,” he says.
If all that wasn’t enough, Wisher further tells NEWS10 commercial ambulance companies that serve the area are having their own staffing issues, leading municipal crews to pick up calls to local nursing homes and assisted living communities they never served before.
“There’s a place on Tibbits Avenue called The Eliot. We went there 711 times last year. We used to never go to the nursing homes or the assisted living facilities, but the commercial guys are fulfilling calls from the places they have contracts with first,” Wisher says.
Troy’s city council reportedly already voted that there will not be room in the coming budget to add more fire staff. The city, according to Wisher, obtained a $3.6 million grant to fill vacancies, but this does not cover adding new positions or making the pay more competitive. Mayor Madden’s office was not available for comment Thursday.
Wisher says he just hopes Troy citizens aren’t the ones sacrificing.
“Hopefully at some point, it doesn’t take a tragedy for some thing to change,” he concludes.
The Troy Uniformed Firefighters Association estimates it would cost between $350,000 and $432,000 to fully operate “Medic 3” on an overnight rotation. Wisher further adds while 144 people have applied to take the next firefighter’s exam, those who pass and go in for paramedic training couldn’t start work for at least two years.