“Citizens at Risk”: Colossal Newburgh Fire Reignites Year-Long Debate
A massive weekend blaze in the City of Newburgh not only threatened the lives of Hudson Valley residents and first responders, but resurfaced a debate that has been raging since January.
Apartment Fire in Newburgh, NY
City of Newburgh Firefighters reported on the fire that ignited Saturday night, sharing that they were able to limit the damage to the original third floor apartment where it started despite "arriving with only 7 firefighters". They also thanked Stewart's Air National Guard and West Point firefighters for their assistance. Some commenters took the opportunity to call out the Newburgh firefighter staffing numbers that many described as "absolutely ridiculous".
Is the Newburgh Fire Department Understaffed?
"The City of Newburgh politicians continue to put their brave firefighters and the city citizens in danger with the ridiculously low and unsafe staffing levels", lamented one resident. "7 firefighters [is] one chief, 2 chauffeurs, and 4 firefighters to go inside and search a multiple occupancy and put the fire out... I don't think anyone in their right mind would say that this is a job for 4 firefighters" elaborated another. This issue has been a hot-button topic since January.
This isn't the first time that both Newburgh residents and firefighters have raised these concerns. In June, City of Newburgh firefighters seemed to imply that a fatal fire might have had a different outcome with more staffing. "It is our opinion that applying water immediately would have made an enormous difference in the outcome of this fire... The members on the scene did the best they could with the limited resources they had, unfortunately, it was not enough", they said in a press release.
To further illustrate their point, the City of Newburgh Firefighters union, AFF Local 589, shared the above photo showing the decline in staff numbers over the past several years. In January 2022, City Manager Todd Venning announced a plan to lower the amount of city firefighters working per shift in response to rising overtime.