Newburgh fire department staffing levels continue to be major issue

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NEWBURGH – The Newburgh city fire union maintains that had staffing levels not been reduced from 10 to seven six months ago, the 63-year-old woman who died in a June fire on Lander Street could have been saved.

The city is standing by its narrative that staffing had nothing to do with it – but rather a delayed 911 call, a burned staircase, wires in the way of a ladder truck, and a trailer blocking a responding fire truck.

At this week’s city council meeting, fire union President Nick Benedetti countered those claims.

“This isn’t the movies, this isn’t ‘Chicago Fire,’ we can’t just run into a building filled with smoke and fire. There are strategies, there are tactics to everything we do in order to have a successful outcome,” he said. “The City of Poughkeepsie, similar in size, similar in demographic,  their fire department daily staffing is 13 – three pumpers with the water, two ladder trucks. In Newburgh, we have one pumper, and one ladder truck with staff. In the fire service, you can’t do more with less. You can only do less with less.”

Mayor Torrance Harvey continues to maintain the issue in the Lander Street fire was not staffing levels and he said the shift changes were enacted early this year to reduce firefighter overtime, which he said has reached over $1.6 million per year.