Letter: HFD staffing levels way too low
Hoboken Fire Dept. Unions critical of Mayor Zimmer; low staff levels
The fire that took place at 300 Washington Street his past weekend was quite destructive, but we were very fortunate that no lives were lost.
However, local fire union officials have been warning Mayor Dawn Zimmer and her administration for some time about the dangers associated with having staff-levels that they feel are way too low, and put citizens in town in great jeopardy.
They sent out a letter to the Mayor and City Council – detailing their argument, and citing several examples that lead them to believe that the city has acted in a “grossly negligent” manner in terms of public safety in Hoboken. See complete letter below…
HFD Unions: City Grossly Negligent with Fire & Public Safety
“Dear Mayor and City Officials,
The initial response was severely limited due to the Hoboken Fire Department having two companies on a mutual aid detail in Jersey City for nearly 2 hours without any backfill. This left the Hoboken Fire Department with fourteen (14) fire fighting personnel to begin fire operations. This included tasks such as completing an interior primary search of the fire building for victims, an aggressive interior fire attack, ventilating the building to release the super heated gases and smoke and evacuate the buildings occupants. Keep in mind that the Battalion Chief, two pump operators and the aerial operator remained outside the fire building. This left a total of ten (10) fire fighting personnel to attack this blaze.
THIS IS UNACCEPTABLE and GROSSLY NEGLIGENT. It is impossible to effectively perform fire fighting operations with this number of fire fighting personnel.
Your administration has violated State law by not having an Accountability Officer, Safety Officer, Rapid Intervention Crew (should firefighters become trapped which almost happened), following the two-in-two-out rule or assigning an aid to the incident commander at the onset of interior fire fighting operations. One fire fighter was seriously injured and will be out of work for an extended period. We will be calling on the Division of Fire Safety and the Attorney General’s office to investigate this gross misconduct by your administration. The City also has a reporting obligation to the Division of Fire Safety as to the fire fighter’s injury.”
Union: City ignores warnings which have led to disastrous results
“Your unwillingness to heed the continuous warning of our locals and properly staff the Department has finally shown its disastrous results, as evidenced by the total loss of 300 Washington. This loss is right on the heels of another total loss fire at 97 Jackson (December 17, 2011) and a loss at Fox Hills Gardens (January 2012), which. I feel it is also important to mention that the Director of public safety Jon Tooke was not present at any of these total loss fires. You and your administration paraded the Matrix audit of the Fire Department as gospel when, as we previously pointed out, it is most assuredly a work of fiction. The audit is full of inaccuracies and contradictions and the city has not even been following the results of audit.
It is our opinion that this administration has severely compromised the safety of the citizens and firefighters of Hoboken by continuing to rely on the Mutual Aid from surrounding communities. Local’s 1078, 1076 and the fire chief forewarned Director Tooke about relying on mutual aid.
He chose to ignore the warning.
This fire began approximately at 7:00 PM and Hoboken had two companies out of town in Jersey City. The Jersey City Fire Department was battling a five alarm fire in their own City. When Hoboken called for assistance from the surrounding community’s fire departments, no one was available for immediate response; they were battling their own fires. The mutual aid companies called to the scene did not come from the usual neighboring communities but from Newark, East Newark, Elizabeth, Bloomfield and other cities. Their response was severely delayed; some companies did not arrive on scene until 8:30 PM. THIS IS UNACCEPTABLE.”
Union: City audits were dangerously flawed
“The Unions are in possession of an audit conducted by the International Association of Fire Firefighters which contradicts the findings of the matrix audit. The IAFF used nationally accepted standards from the NFPA, as well as the City of Hoboken’s geographical makeup to respond to Matrix’s findings. The IAFF’s audit is in a draft form and will be finalized within a few days. The Matrix Audit conveniently did not use the NFPA manpower standard formula for that portion of the study and in other places as well. The Unions will be forwarding the IAFF audit as well as related documentation to the Administration, media and citizens of Hoboken as well as the 97 Jackson Street and 300 Washington Street victims.
The Locals will be contacting the Division of Community Affairs to review the City’s financial irresponsibly with regard to the Fire Department and it fiscal mismanagement. The City has already defaulted on its original SAFER grant obligations. In that grant application, you will find that the City certified to FEMA, that it needed ninety two (92) firefighters to operate the Department and attempt to comply with the NFPA staffing recommendations. We now have sixty seven (67) active fire fighters, which is twenty five (25) short of that total. It is highly unlikely that the City will be selected for any upcoming SAFER funding.
The Unions will be in direct contact with the citizens of Hoboken, building owner(s), tenants and insurance companies of 97 Jackson Street and 300 Washington Street to make them aware of the drastic manpower shortage which exists within the department. It is our hope that each and every responsible member of the city’s administration be held personally accountable for this gross negligence regarding the Hoboken Fire Department.
The City has an obligation to maintain safe and proper staffing levels and apparatus on a daily basis. Local’s 1078 and 1076 call on you and your administration to immediately reopen the Engine Company, which was permanently closed, and staff apparatus to the nationally accepted levels, as recommended by the National Fire Protection Agency (NFPA).
You should be thankful that no one was killed at this blaze. Next time you might not be so lucky!”
President Local 1078
President Local 1076
Richard Blohm, Fire Chief
Arch Liston, Business Administrator
Jon Tooke, Public Safety Director
Hoboken City Council Members
New Jersey Attorney General, Jeffrey S. Chiesa
Division of Community Affairs, Richard E. Constable, III
New Jersey Division of Fire Safety
Dominick Marino, State President PFANJ, IAFF
Bruce Leader, Local 1078/1076 General Counsel