MIDDLETOWN, R.I. (WPRI) — Amid concerns over understaffing at the Middletown Fire Department, one resident says her personal experiences prove how dire the situation is.
Within the past two years, Lauren McManus said she has called for an ambulance twice for serious medical emergencies, and while crews did eventually respond both times, she said they weren’t from Middletown.
During one of those instances, McManus tells Eyewitness News one of her family members had fallen and could not move after possibly suffering head and neck trauma.
“We were told it was taking such a long time because Middletown was out on a call, and Portsmouth did eventually come, but it was at least a 20-minute wait,” McManus recalled.
McManus believes this is a public safety issue that needs to be addressed immediately.
“I don’t feel like my family is safe, I don’t feel like anyone in Middletown is safe,” she said.
Community concern of the department’s staffing situation reignited following a New Year’s Day fire that left a father and his 11-year-old daughter injured.
At the time, Middletown firefighters were busy responding to a medical emergency, so firefighters from Newport were the first to arrive and begin battling the flames.
Town Council President Bob Sylvia said safety is a priority, however, ensuring there is an adequate amount of staffing is an ongoing process.
He said the town uses a data-driven process to decide the fire department’s staffing, which takes into account the town population and the taxpayers’ ability to pay.
McManus believes that isn’t enough. She said she’s ready to do what it takes, as long as the town addresses the problem.
“If we have to pay more taxes or something, fine. I just feel like we need to get it figured out and it needs to be fixed soon,” she said.
Joseph Andriole, president of the Rhode Island Association of Firefighters, believes Sylvia was trying to divert the attention away from town management and instead throw the fire department under the bus for not providing adequate public safety.
He also said the Rhode Island Association of Firefighters has been in arbitration with Middletown Town Council and claims town leaders refuse to negotiate.
“It appears the town leaders have lost their moral compass,” Andriole said. “I am hoping they can set politics aside and regain their moral compass and do the right thing and protect the community properly.”