NEWBURGH, N.Y. — At the end of the July, the Newburgh Fire Department could be down nine firefighters if a third SAFER grant isn't awarded.
"The concerns are manpower at the scenes of any emergency," said Newburgh Fire Department Lieutenant and union president Brendan Hogan. "There are tons of jobs to be done in a very short period of time, and the more hands that we have for it makes for lighter work — especially in this line of work."
Hogan says that with potential staff reduction comes an increase in overtime, and the risk of more injuries.
“You're exhausted and you're tired and we end up with a lot more injuries, which ends up with more loss time and more overtime," says Hogan. "It's a vicious and endless cycle."
City Council voted to fund three firefighters from the General Fund in a council meeting Monday. But, Hogan says he wishes more was done earlier to prevent what he thinks are inevitable layoffs without the grant.
"The four years we had during SAFER funding were opportunities to save money, squirrel away money for the eventual ending of it," says Hogan. "Unfortunately none of those actions were taken."
The City of Newburgh not only provides services within its jurisdiction, but also to surrounding towns and villages. The loss of manpower could have a ripple effect according to Orange County Fire Coordinator Vini Tankasali.
"When you have a department that has a career firefighting force, and that were to deplete or decline in any shape or form, it could put more burden on those departments that are already struggling with volunteers," said Tankasali.
Fire departments provide mutual aid to one another, and Newburgh firefighters offer specialized support in certain technical and water rescues.
"With all those things that they are involved in, losing any staffing could potentially pose problems and could certainly hurt rescue operations and public safety," said Tankasali.
Councilman Anthony Grice spoke with Spectrum News about the council meeting and the potential layoffs for the fire department. He says they are willing to look into different avenues to see if they are able to save those nine jobs. Hogan says that without that federal funding, he thinks saving them is unlikely. The city will find out the status of the SAFER grant at the end of the month.