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.