Willy-Nilly: in a haphazard or spontaneous manner.
A Monday morning fire at 1100 Prospect Place in Crown Heights, Brooklyn, resulted in serious injuries to members of Rescue Company-2 as they apparently conducted a search on the top floor of the dwelling.
According to the New York Times, a family with four children lives in the brownstone and R-2 was on the four-bedroom, top floor when the fire rapidly spread. Video from the scene captures fire exploding from the top floor bay window as a firefighter emerges onto an aerial ladder positioned below.
Steve Cassidy, President of the Uniformed Firefighters Association, was quoted in the Times as saying that, “When you take one firefighter away from the team, it takes longer, … there was at least a one-minute delay today in getting water to the fire, and if they had been there with a fully staffed engine, the fire never would have gotten out of the back room.”
First-in Engine 234 is apparently one of the companies to lose a firefighter as part of FDNY cutbacks. Chief of Department Edward Kilduff denied Cassidy’s assertions stating, “It was a very short stretch across the street, and the line was in position in a sufficient, adequate amount of time.”
City residents must shake their heads at two fire professionals taking such diametrically opposing views about such an obvious point. Does having one less person available result in increased time required to suppress a fire?
The answer is, yes, up to a point, if the firefighters are trained, which in FDNY, they certainly are. This is especially true if the company is the first arriving engine and therefore responsible for putting the first water on the fire.
There can be little professional doubt that E-234 was less effective in the one scenario where it counts the most: first arriving engine, uncontrolled fire, people in exposed positions.
It would turn out that those exposed persons were FDNY members who are presumably well aware of the lost efficiencies when an engine crew is down a member. They also knew of the thin ice on which they were about to skate as they were apparently operating ahead of the first line.
While Cassidy is obviously right, FDNY members continue to place themselves in extremely exposed positions where any environmental hiccup (unexpected ventilation, flash-over) or operational glitch (understaffed or late arriving company) can spell disaster. The question is, when will Cassidy’s own members hear the message he so clearly espouses?
FDNY’s brave victories are at once heroic and pyrrhic, performed amidst an adoring public, largely ignorant to the irony of it all.
Sources: NYT, FFN, Statter911, NYP, Daily News