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COVID New York City Update: Some FDNY fire companies close amid staffing shortage


NEW YORK CITY (WABC) — For a second day, a number of FDNY fire companies have closed because of lack of staffing in what the department suspects is a limited job action.

FDNY officials said on Saturday they are aware that an unusual number of firefighters are visiting medical offices and calling out sick and the department is attempting to determine why.

That means several fire companies which are within the fire house, such as the engine or ladder company, have temporary closed due to lack of man power.

“The department has not closed any firehouses. Irresponsible bogus sick leave by some of our members is creating a danger for New Yorkers and their fellow firefighters. They need to return to work or risk the consequences of their actions,” FDNY Commissioner Daniel A. Nigro said in a statement.

Officials say it has not affected fire response and that they are managing the high number of sick calls and continuing operations.

“We are effectively managing a crisis. While we’ve had our share of crisis in the past, this one is unprecedented,” a high ranking FDNY official told Eyewitness News.

They say the “effectively” may change Monday as some variables and factors are unknown until then, when the vaccine mandate takes effect.

According to New York Congresswoman Nicole Malliotakis, 26 FDNY fire companies across the five boroughs have closed, just one day after a 5 p.m. deadline passed for municipal workers to get at least one dose of the COVID vaccine.

“As of 7:30 this morning, 26 FDNY stations, including five in my district, have closed due to Mayor de Blasio’s decision to lock unvaccinated firefighters out of work,” Congresswoman Malliotakis said.

The FDNY did not confirm if that number was accurate, and said it is a fluid number as companies within fire houses close and then reopen.

On Friday, FDNY officials said 10 fire companies were shut down because they believed a limited job action was underway and a number of firefighters had called-out sick. This resulted in fire companies being temporarily understaffed and closed.

They are allegations union leaders vehemently denied.

“Is there a sickout? Not to my knowledge, no,” said Andrew Ansbro with the Uniformed Firefighters Association.

“We don’t condone any job action, nor do we inform anybody to do a job action,” said Jim McCarthy, president of the Uniformed Fire Officers Association.

“I have had members that have received the vaccination say they are having flu like symptoms and they’ve had to go sick,” Ansbro said. “The department is allowing people to have a couple days off after they get the vaccination.”

Commissioner Daniel A. Nigro released the following statement:

“The excessive sick leave by a group of our Firefighters because of their anger at the vaccine mandate for all city employees is unacceptable, contrary to their oaths to serve, and may endanger the lives of New Yorkers. Despite these actions by some, the Department will continue to respond to all calls for help that come our way.”

The COVID vaccine mandate states that all municipal employees must get at least one dose of the vaccine by the deadline or be placed on unpaid leave, starting Monday.

As of 8 p.m. Friday, 72% of FDNY firefighters and 84% of FDNY EMS members had been vaccinated.

ALSO READ | FDNY unions protest vaccine mandate outside Gracie Mansion on Upper East Side

As for the NYPD, department commanders believe their crisis may be averted.

They say a vaccination rush by hundreds of officers over the past 36 hours will allow the department to police the city with no significant impact on public safety.

“I think we’re heading in the right direction, obviously,” said Commissioner Dermot Shea. “We have a very growing population of vaccinated members of the NYPD.”

The vaccine hesitancy among so many has left city commissioners frustrated — Shea among them.

“This time last year, we were fighting like heck to get vaccines for our members to keep them safe,” Shea said. “And now we have them, and we’re having a debate.”

The department vaccination rate is now at 84%, and after the department administered more than 1,000 vaccinations Friday.

Meanwhile, the sanitation department’s vaccination rate went up 9% on Friday. However 23% of the department remains unvaccinated.

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