New Bedford firefighters union urges city not to decommission one of its engines

SE Mass

NEW BEDFORD, Mass. (WPRI) — Nearly one year after the New Bedford ended its controversial blackout policy, the firefighters union is asking the city not take one of its fire engines off the street.

The blackout policy, which took one of the city’s fire stations out of service on a rotating basis, was initially implemented to save money, according to city officials.

But stopping the practice came at the cost of one of the department’s 10 fire stations, since city officials said they did not have the financial means to support them all.

Now Local 841 is pushing to prevent one of the city’s fire engines from meeting a similar fate.

“They want our fire department to do more with less,” Local 481 President Billy Sylvia said.

Kendra Frederic, a New Bedford resident, said without that engine, her house wouldn’t still be standing.

She said last month, the apartment above hers caught fire, forcing her family to evacuate.

She said first responders were on scene “in the blink of an eye,” meeting her family at the front door.

“Literally, I opened the door and there’s the police officers and Engine 8 was right there,” she recalled.

Frederic said Engine 8’s quick response saved her home, and urged the city Tuesday not to take it off the streets.

“It can’t come off the road, we’d lose way too much,” she said.

Sylvia said the city wants to replace both Engine 8 and a ladder truck with a single truck called a quint. He said the quint is an older model and it won’t be able to respond as quickly as Engine 8.

“[It would take] a little bit longer for that quint to get to the scene because it’s bigger and slower,” Sylvia explained. “Also, when they get there, they will have less manpower and less boots on the ground actually putting the fire out.”

The station receives roughly 3,000 calls annually, and Sylvia said that delay could have deadly consequences.

“You can’t put a value on a house or someone’s life,” Frederic said. “There’s been too many losses to fires.”

Sylvia said the firefighters union has applied for a federal grant to keep Engine 8 in service, but that could be approved as late as next year.

12 News reached out to Mayor Jon Mitchell regarding Engine 8’s future, but has not heard back.

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