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Union fires back at city on amputation accident, votes no confidence in chief

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PAWTUCKET, R.I. (WPRI) — A department report blaming an out-of-service ladder truck as one of the causes of a serious injury, is ”clear, factual and accurate;” a contrast to the opinions of city public safety administrators, according to the firefighters’ union president.

According to the May 30 document written by Assistant Fire Chief Jay McLaughlin, the second of three city ladder trucks “was out of service due to a lack of funding for repair.”

In the document, McLaughlin wrote without the availability of a second ladder, firefighters decided to move the only working ladder, with two firefighters still on the apparatus, during a May 15 rescue from a burning triple-decker.

One firefighter was injured by a ladder rung that crushed his foot when the vehicle moved toward a window where a woman was “calling for help.” 15 days later, the foot was amputated, according to the report.

President of Firefighters Local 1261 Scott Giroux said, “there is no doubt that having only one aerial in service and available” was the main factor in the accident.

“Had a second aerial been in service,” Giroux said. “Ladder Company 2 would never have been forced to perform such a dangerous maneuver.”

Pawtucket’s Fire Chief William Sisson disputed the claim “a lack of funding” was why the ladder was out of service for about 6 weeks, leading up to the accident.

Sisson said the department’s third ladder was also out-of-service at the time of the rescue and is still being repaired. Ladder 2 went back in service the day after the accident.

Acting Director of Public Safety Tina Goncalves also disputed the report, emphasizing the city spends “millions of dollars fixing equipment.”

Giroux said the union agrees with McLaughlin’s statement in the report that a lack of a Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) and training are additional “root causes” for the accident.

Sisson and Goncalves disagreed that training is an issue.

The union also announced the results of a no-confidence vote in Chief Sisson taken on March 28, resulting in a 123-7 tally against the chief.

Giroux, who did not explain the delay in releasing the result, said union members have dealt with “a seemingly constant desire by the city to reduce the number fire stations, in-service apparatus and on-duty firefighters.”

Giroux said the final straw was the city pushing the transfer of Engine Company 3 members from their positions during a “temporary closure of the engine.”

“Unfortunately, during this difficult time, there has been zero leadership from Chief Sisson,” Giroux said.

Sisson was unavailable to comment on the no-confidence vote.

Send tips to Target 12 Investigator Walt Buteau at wbuteau@wpri.com and follow him on Twitter @wbuteau.

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