It's been five years since the Lockport Fire Department had proper staffing, according to arbitrator Michael Lewandowski.
In those years, Lockport firefighters have battled some of the toughest blazes with just six men per shift instead of nine. That includes a fatal fire at High Tread International in 2016, the largest in the city's history. The blaze lasted three days and required help from all fire halls in Niagara County.
"When you cut from nine firefighters to six, you're not just cutting firefighters," said Mark Devine, common council president. "What you are also doing is you're taking equipment out of service."
Devine says the cuts were made by the previous administration are not limited to firefighters.
"They also got rid of the city of Lockport's ambulance service," he added.
The common council president says the ambulatory service was the third largest revenue stream for the city. The end of the paramedic service led to the lay off of 12 Lockport firefighters — a number the city is now legally required to replace.
"It's been a long time coming," said IAFF Local 963 President, Michael Barnwell. "Its gonna make us safe the residents safe, it's a good situation for us".
Lockport Mayor Michelle Roman and the Firefighters Union met Friday to negotiate how staffing will be restored
"We have to negotiate with the union about when this will be implemented," said Roman. "The decision said immediate, but with civil service process. We have an active list, but not enough to cover 12 people."
Both the mayor and council president say there is a much bigger picture to consider surrounding this new judgment. They say they'll now be able to tackle an issue with recruitment.
It's a problem they say they've had over the last five years.
"People weren't going to spend their $25 to take a civil service exam if they felt they had no chance of being interviewed, " said Devine.
He says the firefighter layoffs impacted recruitment for all civil service jobs, including the clerks office, court and the Police department.
The mayor believes but this latest judgment could help the city transform and add to its existing workforce.
"We'll be able to get more people to apply and hopefully we can build upon a more diverse group of people that can apply," said Roman.
The city plans to file for a safer grant similar to the one Buffalo received to hire 50 more firefighters.