Nota Takes Issue w/Firefighter Comments Following Friday Blaze 

by | Mar 6, 2022

Above: A mutual aid ladder truck fights the fire at 79 Duke St. Friday night. Photo by Tim Cure

Says town adequately funds fire department

After a fire Friday night at an 8-unit condominium complex on Duke Street resulted in the displacement of all occupants, firefighter union president Bill Perry was quoted on Channel 10 saying the town’s aging equipment was hampering service. (Read about the fire HERE.)

“The aging fleet coupled with the lack of an efficient and adequate repair process constantly leaves East Greenwich firefighters working without the adequate resources that we need to serve our community,” he said in a statement. 

In a press release Sunday, Town Manager Andy Nota pushed back against Perry’s comments:

“Following [the fire Friday] … we’ve had Local IAFF [union] officials quoted in … statewide media in leading residents directly affected by this emergency to believe that lack of locally committed resources somehow contributed to this event or could have changed its outcome in some manner. I can emphatically state that this is not the case, in fact the present Town Council and administration has invested more in this one department in the past two years with more plans over the next two years, in terms of technology, equipment, and facilities, than has been invested since the former fire district became part of the town back in 2013.”

He also questioned the timing of Perry’s comments as the town and union are in contract negotiations and some of the issues Perry mentioned – in addition to equipment concerns, Perry said the department was “woefully understaffed” –are part of the negotiations.

“A greater concern at this moment, is that the Town and IAFF Local are presently involved in contract negotiations with many of the issues being publicly raised here by the union, being in fact the major issues raised confidentially in those discussions.… These comments have been … directly offered to residents that had just suffered a tragic experience. The timing of such comments is truly questionable and uncalled for in the field, by any department member. Town officials both elected and appointed have and will continue to be supportive of the good work of the Fire Department. We will work through the events of this recent incident and the associated commentary, in continuing to provide high quality and efficient services to our residents.”

You can find Nota’s full press release here: Duke Street Events.

In response to Nota’s press release, Perry said the union stands by their statements to the media over the weekend. “We did not ask to be interviewed by the media, we simply responded to a request by the media,” Perry said. “At no time did the firefighters ever state, as portrayed by the town manager, that the outcome would have been any different, but it is undeniable, as proven in the recorded radio transmissions from the incident commander that night, that a ladder truck was needed right away to ventilate the structure.”

The town has two ladder trucks and both are offline, in need of repairs. When that happens, when a call comes in and trucks are out on other calls, or the call happens to be a significant building fire, dispatch routinely reaches out to neighboring communities for what’s called “mutual aid.” On Friday, firefighters and trucks from Warwick, West Warwick, and North Kingstown came to help EGFD fight the Duke Street fire, including ladder trucks from both Warwick and NK. Firefighters from Coventry helped cover any other calls that came in to EGFD since all EG firefighters were at Duke Street.

Perry said the union was very grateful to the town for planned capital improvements, some of which will be paid for with federal American Rescue Plan stimulus dollars.  

He added Nota needed to figure out how to get equipment repaired or replaced more expeditiously. “Without the tools and resources being available, we cannot perform the job that our community expects of us,” Perry said.

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9 Comments

  1. Jay

    As residents, we pay very high taxes and expect the very best services to be provided. I support the local PD/FD and know they are understaffed. There should be a minimum of 3 firefighters on each of the two (that’s right only two engine companies) in town. There should be a ladder company with 4 firefighters that can, if needed, cross man a 3rd with two of those firefighters from the ladder (keeping the ladder in service as well). This would be for all the times we have both rescues tied up. Doing this would likely give the town a better ISO rating and increase the chance of survival for residents experiencing true emergencies. That being said, the overall use and “abuse” of the 9-1-1 system needs to be reviewed and the ability to triage calls using an EMD system would also save lives. With all the medical centers in Town now we may need a 3rd rescue during the day. These medical facilities and skilled nursing homes are taking the rescues from the Town. I am just throwing out ideas here…Another option, especially for a State the size of Rhode Island, would be to go to a County based FD and PD. One chief for the entire county is sufficient and that would give you more funds to hire more staff and have the best equipment! Same with schools…why do we need 30+ superintendents for a State this size?! There are counties in the USA that are bigger than Rhode Island. Anyways, nice job to EGFD and surrounding communities – we appreciate you. It’s nice to have WFD E-10 & E-5 so close as well as NKFD E-3 and WWFD E-4. We would be in trouble if it weren’t for them backing us up. Stay safe.

    Reply
    • Mary ward

      Agree but having any municipality cede control to a county administration is a battle no town wants to fight. They all think they do a better job individually and so we pay (literally and figuratively) for the status quo.

      Reply
  2. Kevin

    I recognize and appreciate the importance of a union but Mr Perry needs to learn that his comments whether valid or not are best addressed in the proper setting and time and not on the backs of someone’s loss and tragedy. He was very unprofessional and needs to read the definition of being tactful.

    Reply
    • Jay

      Luckily no one was hurt or killed. It is unfortunate that homes were destroyed but I’d rather the union bring it up now than when someone loses their life. If the public doesn’t know how can we rectify the issues, they will keep being ignored.

      Reply
  3. Jan

    PLEASE stop with the whining…. Give me a break!!!

    Reply
  4. Ray R

    I’d like to be able to understand if I read the article on the fire on Duke correctly? How everyone went home and it rekindled? So without a clear understanding I don’t know what’s antiquated or who is un-conversant?

    I would anticipate that new construction 3 stories or higher or even those atop Bleachery Hill have sprinkler systems. There is very possibly is a 12 unit building going up on Exchange St along with Town Houses on Queen. It may be time to request the assistance of those individuals possibly more familiar and less hostile than what this town has to offer to determine when these systems should be installed.

    Reply
  5. Tom G

    Isn’t it interesting Mr Perry is quoted that the department is understaffed, yet with all those resources as indicated in the article the fire still rekindled, the ultimate embarrassment for any fire department. Kudos to the town manager for quickly responding to the foolish statements by the union president and letting us know as residents and taxpayers just how much money has been spent on the FD compared to other town departments over the last few years.

    Reply
  6. 79

    I am a resident of 79 Duke. The firefighters couldn’t do their job correctly because of cars parked all up and down the street so firetrucks had no where to go. The roads need to be one way. The fire trucks had no where to park.They had to go to Marlborough Street into another yard to reach the fire. Yet the Town of East Greenwich is allowing more building in the area. The firefighters from EG Warwick and North Kingstown along with the police department and the Red Cross did an amazing job. It’s very upsetting to see all the bickering back and fourth. And especially it’s upsetting and disrespectful to see people disrespect the firefighters! They work so hard daily!
    Please to everyone keep your comments to yourself.
    The residents of 79 Duke Street are dealing with so much grief and loss. And to read this is just plain and simple disgusting!
    I think the firefighters did an amazing job and to ALL of you complaining that the firefighters get a cushy pension, etc. … we lost our homes and this is what you complain about! Just pray that you don’t lose everything like we all have! With all the condos being built in such a crowded area it’s just a matter of time till there is a deadly tragedy! And in my personal opinion the blame will be on the town for allowing more new construction.
    Thank you. And thank you to Mr. Perry for making us aware of what’s really going on.

    Reply
  7. R

    Thank you Jay for letting me understand what’s really going on! Mr Nota should’ve been more focused on the families of the fire.

    Reply

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