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Pawtucket brass disputes claim lack of funding contributed to rescue accident

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PAWTUCKET, R.I. (WPRI) — Pawtucket’s Fire Chief and Public Safety Director deny there was a lack of funding to repair an out-of-service ladder truck that a fire department injury report claimed could’ve helped avert a serious injury to a firefighter during a rescue from a triple-decker fire.

According to the report, the “second ladder truck was out of service due to a lack of funding for repair,” prompting firefighters to move the city’s only working ladder during a rescue, with two firefighters still on the ladder. 

One firefighter was injured during the May 15 incident when a rung of the apparatus crushed his foot as the vehicle moved toward a window where a woman was “calling for help.”

According to the injury report obtained by Target 12, the 25-year veteran’s foot was amputated 15 days after he was injured during the Central Avenue fire

Fire Chief William Sisson said an internal investigation into the accident is underway, but he insisted a lack of funding had nothing to do with the ladder truck being out of service.

“That’s just not true,” Sisson said. “If was [out of service] because of the warranty work. Once we heard the amount it would cost we approved it.”

City spokesman Wilder Arboleda said the second ladder truck was undergoing repairs and out of service from January 28 to May 16.

Arboleda said it was returned to the department the day before the accident but needed tires, keeping it idle until May 16.

According to Sisson, the department’s third ladder truck went out of service in April and is still undergoing repairs.

Sisson and Acting Director of Public Safety Tina Goncalves also disputed a claim in the report that the department is unwilling “to provide monies or time off for training.”

“That is not correct,” Sisson said. “As a matter of fact, we have training that is ongoing all the time.”

Goncalves said she wants “to make it abundantly clear we’re saddened by this injury.”

But she insists the city is focused on maintaining its equipment.

“We spend millions of dollars fixing equipment. $2.5 million over the last 8 years to replace 10 pieces of equipment,” Goncalves said. “We hired a fire tech to specifically work on the equipment.”

Assistant Chief Jay McLaughlin, who wrote the injury report, said he could not comment any further.

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

Copyright 2019 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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