NEW BEDFORD, Mass. (WPRI) — Firefighters in New Bedford are taking a stand against Mayor Jon Mitchell’s decision to end blackouts by permanently closing one of the city’s fire stations.
The blackout policy, which took one station out of service on a rotating basis, has been a point of contention between the city and the firefighters union.
The policy will no longer be in effect beginning in March, which is also when Station 11 is set to close, according to New Bedford Fire Chief Paul Coderre.
Mitchell recommended the closure because the city does not have the financial means to support all of its stations.
Members of the firefighters union gathered in front of Station 11 to express their concerns.
Billy Sylvia, president of Local 841, tells Eyewitness News the closure puts those living and working south of Cove Street in danger.
“Four fatalities in fires in this city since 2018 while fire apparatus has been blacked out,” Sylvia said. “We find it to be insulting to the families of those lost and to our members that come to work every day to protect people in this city.”
Two of those fatalities occurred within the last few months, while the first engine capable of responding was blacked out.
“Continued excuses from the mayor about blackouts and now the permanent closure of this station because of so-called fiscal constraints is a basic lie,” Sylvia said.
Sylvia said while he wants the blackouts to end, he doesn’t believe a station closure will solve the problem, adding that it will lead to an overextension of coverage areas for remaining apparatus.
He believes the cause of the blackouts has to do more with the city’s lack of hiring new firefighters.
Coderre said the department will decommission the station and everyone assigned there will be redeployed to other fire companies.