In late October, New York City reportedly sent out a call to potential volunteer firefighters from Long Island and Upstate New York to help cover the “impending shortage” of firefighters that was expected to be caused by the COVID-19 vaccine mandate’s November 1 deadline.
The anxious message was emailed to roughly 350 possible volunteer firefighters, according to the Daily Mail.
“Good morning all. We need to start identifying members of the service who are active volunteer firemen in both Long Island and Upstate counties in anticipation of the impending shortage for the FDNY due to COVID-19 vaccine mandates,” the email stated. “On a voluntary only basis operations is looking to have qualified members on standby to backfill firehouses if necessary.”
“Please get back to me as soon as possible with rank, years of fire service and training qualifications,” the email continued.
At least 26 firehouses in New York have been forced to shut down due to NYC Mayor Bill DeBlasio’s vaccine mandate after thousands of firefighters refused to comply. FDNY spokesman Jim Long said the closures were temporary until more manpower could be acquired to restaff the firehouses, the New York Post reported.
Andrew Ansbro, president of the Uniformed Firefighters Association, warned that the mandate could pose a public safety risk. The city’s fire department said it was ready for up to 20 percent of its fire companies to be down and expected to be running 20 percent fewer ambulances.
“We’re here today because of a mandate that was put not only on our members, but also all New York City employees, given nine days to make a life-changing decision on their career or whether or not they’re going to take a vaccine,” Ansbro said.
The association further revealed a list of FDNY firehouses that “have closed due to no manpower,” including six in Manhattan, nine in Brooklyn, three in Queens, four in the Bronx and four in Staten Island.
Fire Commissioner Daniel Nigro warned on Friday that the closures could have deadly effects and would “endanger the lives” of New York City residents.
One day after Nigro’s warning, 7-year-old Robert Resto was killed, and his grandmother was seriously injured, in a deadly fire that consumed their home. An FDNY spokesman claimed the department’s response time was not a result of staffing issues.
Around 2,300 firefighters took part in the “sick out,” Nigro said, adding that the department’s medical office typically sees about 200 people each day. Over the last week, that number has jumped up to about 700 people a day, with the vast majority being unvaccinated.
“I’ve asked them to rethink this, to remember their oath of office,” Nigro added. “It’s not only affecting the people they serve, it’s affecting their brothers and sisters in the department who are forced to fill their spots.”