FDNY Passes Recruit Despite Failing Physical Test

Male and female firefighters upset over graduation of recruit who could not pass test
SUSAN EDELMAN, The New York Post Published Tuesday, May 5, 2015

The FDNY for the first time in its history will allow someone who failed its crucial physical-fitness test to join the Bravest, The Post has learned.

Rebecca Wax, 33, is set to graduate Tuesday from the Fire Academy without passing the Functional Skills Training test, a grueling obstacle course of job-related tasks performed in full gear with a limited air supply, an insider has revealed.

"They're going to allow the first person to graduate without passing because this administration has lowered the standard," said the insider, who is familiar with the training.

Upon graduation, Wax would be assigned to a firehouse and tasked with the full duties of a firefighter.

Some FDNY members are angry.

FFN Discussion: FDNY Fitness Fail - What are YOUR Standards?

"We're being asked to go into a fire with someone who isn't 100 percent qualified," the source said. "Our job is a team effort. If there's a weak link in the chain, either civilians or our members can die."

Wax's graduation comes as the city celebrates the FDNY's 150th anniversary and as the department is under pressure by the de Blasio administration to hire more women.

Only 44 of the FDNY's 10,500 firefighters are female.

While Wax fell short, two other female probies in the graduating class passed the FST with flying colors.

"They're kicking butt. They're doing better than 50 percent of the class," the insider said. "When they get assigned to a firehouse, they'll be welcomed with open arms because they've done what everyone else has gone through."

But those women aren't pleased about Wax's treatment, either.

"A lot of the girls in the field are pissed because they feel like they're getting lumped into the same category of a female getting special treatment and not meeting the same standards as the males," the insider added. "It devalues what the women in the field have accomplished."

In the FST exam, probies must breathe through a mask attached to an air tank while carrying up to 50 pounds of gear.

They must climb six flights of stairs, stretch hose lines, raise ladders, perform tasks that simulate breaking doors and pulling down ceilings, and drag dummies through tunnels with no visibility. They must complete the course in 17 minutes, 50 seconds or less.

Despite many attempts over the Fire Academy's 18-week training course, Wax completed the test just once - but it took her more than 22 minutes, the source said.

FDNY Firefighter Candidate Prep: CPAT

FDNY Firefighter Candidate Introduction to Probationary Firefighter School

FDNY Fire Academy: Physical Training Session 1

FDNY Fire Academy: Physical Training Session 2

Under the FDNY's new hiring policy, probies must earn at least 75 percent on the combined requirements of academics, hands-on skills and physical fitness.

Wax had a high grade-point average on her academics, which officials determined offset her FST deficiency, the insider said.

Last December, Fire Commissioner Daniel Nigro told a City Council hearing on the FDNY's efforts to recruit women that he had changed FST requirements to lower obstacles.

"We still grade the people. You can still fail it if you go beyond the time, but you're not automatically failed from the program," he said.

He also indicated he wanted to act before a possible sex-discrimination lawsuit after the city paid $98 million to settle a lawsuit that accused the FDNY of discriminating against minorities.

"We must no longer wait for a judge's ruling to tell us what fairness means," Nigro said.

United Women Firefighters, an organization of FDNY women, objects to the FST test, contending it unfairly bars females.

Wax had previously received another break to join the FDNY after pleading in June 2011 for a City Council bill that raised the age limit from 29 to 35 for applicants like her who first took the entrance exam in 2007. A hiring freeze imposed by federal Judge Nicholas Garaufis in the discrimination suit put them in limbo.

"I want nothing more than to be a New York City firefighter," Wax, then 29, had testified at a hearing.

Nigro, questioned by The Post during an FDNY anniversary celebration at a Midtown firehouse Saturday, refused to comment on Wax's fitness failure.

"Every one of our 305 probies have passed and will be graduating Tuesday," he said. "She has met the requirements."

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Copyright 2011 Lexus Nexus. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Reporters Take On FDNY Training

New York Fire Departments Increase Staffing with Aggressive Recruitment

Companies throughout the state participate in recruitment weekend
The Buffalo News Published Monday, April 27, 2015

Here's one way to get parents to a volunteer fire department open house: Give their children a chance to win a ride to school in a fire truck.

That's what they're doing in Blasdell on Saturday as part of a statewide recruitment push.

And Blasdell hasn't forgotten the parents, who could win a free rental of the fire hall - a $300 value - just for "liking" the Blasdell Fire Department's Facebook page.

It used to be volunteer fire companies had waiting lists of volunteers wanting to join.

But these days, as the number of volunteer firefighters dropped after the post 9/11 surge, departments are doing whatever it takes to get potential members through their doors.

That means letting members of the public put on turnout gear and run through an obstacle course or man a hose, or having Mercy Flight land a helicopter at open houses. Or offering sweet rides to school.

Fire companies throughout New York will take part in this weekend's fifth annual RecruitNY by holding open houses, showing off equipment, offering safety tips and sponsoring other activities to call on more volunteers to join the ranks of fire companies.

"We have done the recruitment weekend the last two years with moderate success," said Blasdell Fire Chief Len Fusco.

So this year the department borrowed the win-a-ride-to-school idea from another department, and Firefighter Renee Murray came up with giving away a fire hall rental through Facebook. Blasdell's membership dwindled to about 15 five years ago, and is up to 28 today. That's down from the high mark of 50 in the 1970s.

There were 110,000 firefighters in the state in the 1980s, said Robert Leonard, a spokesman for the Firemen's Association of the State of New York. The numbers stayed steady through the 1990s, and there was a small surge after the terrorist attacks Sept. 11, 2001. But then the number dropped off.

"By 2010, we were down to 84,000 volunteer firefighters," said Leonard, who also belongs to the Syosset Volunteer Fire Company.

There are a number of reasons for the decline.

Training in the post 9/11 world got more rigorous, and there are more families with both parents working one or two jobs, making it more difficult to volunteer, he said. The decline also mirrored the exodus of population from New York, said Dan Neaverth Jr., Erie County commissioner of emergency services.

The state association and Erie County firefighters obtained federal grants under the Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response program to increase recruits and retain members. Funds were used for public awareness advertising, to pay for active members to attend community colleges and for retention strategies such as training and increasing morale.

"We feel it's been very successful," Leonard said.

Since the RecruitNY program started in 2011, 12,500 volunteers joined the ranks, bringing the number to 96,500, he said.

"We feel we've made significant progress to stem the loss," Leonard said.

After signing up new members, companies work on retaining them.

"Many people don't realize that you don't have to spend that much time at the fire hall, and they don't realize that you don't need any prior experience to join. We pay for all the training," said Fusco, of Blasdell.

There are more than 5,000 volunteer firefighters in Erie County, and more than 1,800 volunteers have joined fire companies since 2012, according to Neaverth.

At least 23 of the 94 fire companies in Erie County will have open houses and programs this weekend. Visitors can tour fire halls, and some will have children's' activities, while adults can put on turnout gear and go through an obstacle course or man a hose. For more information, contact RecruitNY or iVolunteer.org.

"Stop at one of the open houses," said Neaverth. "I would encourage them, if nothing else, to stop in and talk to the rank and file. Don't say 'I'm not going to do it because I could never go into a burning building.' "

"Being a firefighter is much more than answering the call," Ellwood Fire Company Fire Safety Officer Zach McFadden said.

There are multiple jobs in a fire company, and not every firefighter goes into burning buildings, Neaverth said.

Fire companies also are looking to appeal to families, and they have activities for all ages.

"Hopefully, at some point, that 5-year-old becomes an 18-year-old and wants to join the fire company," Neaverth said.

email: bobrien@buffnews.com

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Buffalo Firefighters Face Multiple Fires and Violent Occupant

Firefighters were forced to bailout of house after confronting an armed resident
Buffalo firefighters faced a mentally unstable person with a butcher knife inside this house fire. (WIVB photo)
Published Monday, April 27, 2015

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — Buffalo firefighters thought they were responding to a typical fire Friday afternoon.

But when they got to the scene, already finding two fires outside and more flames inside — they also found a woman with a knife.

The city’s fire commissioner updated the media Saturday on his crew’s brave rescue.

Buffalo fire officials say a woman started a fire in a garage Friday afternoon at 210 Glenwood Avenue between Purdy and Waverly streets.

Buffalo firefighters rushed to the scene and found two lawnmowers outside ablaze. Inside the home, they found additional fires and a woman flashing a knife.

“Sometimes it’s just a fire, sometimes it’s someone there with ill intent, or whatever,” said Buffalo Commissioner of Fire Garnell Whitfield, Jr.

The fire accelerated, and three firefighters were forced to save themselves.

“They were involved in a very hostile environment, fire, that took off on them,” Whitfield said. “They actually ended up having to dive through the windows, and received some cuts having done so.”

They then went back into the home to find the woman unresponsive and not breathing.



What's left of Rescue 1 Lt. helmet. Photos from Engine 21 firefighter Chris Wright.

Posted by Buffalo Fire Dept. Rescue Co. 1 on Sunday, April 26, 2015

Despite having been threatened minutes before, firefighters maintained their duties.

“The men and women of the Buffalo Fire Department, having been confronted by her, aggressively brandishing a knife, bailed out and then went back in to rescue. They put their lives in danger to rescue her then resuscitate and I think that’s a testament to their willingness to serve.”

No charges had been filed as of Saturday evening, and the fire’s exact cause remained under investigation.


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Buffalo Firefighters Injured

Videos: Fire Destroys New York Marina

Tonawanda Island fire destroys warehouse and several boats
The fire leveled a large warehouse building and firefighters had to continue to extinguish hot spots for hours in the rubble. (WIVB photo)
Published Tuesday, April 21, 2015

NORTH TONAWANDA, N.Y. (WIVB) — About a dozen boats were destroyed when the warehouse at the Shore Waterfront Marina and Restaurant complex went up in flames early Monday morning. The warehouse was reduced to rubble.

An orange glow lit up the dark sky over Tonawanda Island before 3 a.m.

The restaurant was spared, according to North Tonawanda Fire Chief John Lapham.

“The winds picked up, pushed the fire right across the building. We had exposure problems with boats all round,” he said.

Flames leaped out into the darkness, fueled by that wind and by the contents of the two-story marina warehouse. There were boats and boating supplies inside.

WIVB videos

Robert Stevenson who could see the inferno from his house said he heard an explosion and observed what looked like “lightning pulses.”

That may have been the three transformers that were destroyed next to the warehouse. Power was knocked out to half the island and to a water pumping station, which made it that much more difficult for fire fighters. One of them sustained a leg injury but is doing well.

Boat batteries may have been charging at the time of the fire. There had been a party at the marina on Saturday, celebrating the upcoming boating season.

Mike Charnock, the owner of the warehouse, marina and restaurant, said the cause could be electrical.

“Could have been anything like that. Charging a battery,” he said.

He does not think the fire is suspicious. Charnock told customers who arrived at the scene whether or not their boats survived.

Bill Bender’s boat luckily had been pulled outside of the warehouse a few days earlier so other boats could be reached for seasonal preparations.

“It was pulled out and just has black soot on it,” he said.

Doug Manzella wasn’t as lucky. His boat, worth about $25,000 was destroyed.

“I’ve just learned it’s a total loss. My boat was inside, but what are you going to do?” he said.

He was relieved to know that no one was seriously injured. He said he has insurance for the boat.

Mike Charnock watched the news coverage on the restaurant’s big screen, right across from the warehouse ruins.

“We’re doing as best we can,” he said. “We will be rebuilding.”

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Fire Destroys New York Marina

New York Volunteers Push State on Billing and Health Benefits

FASNY continues fight for ambulance billing and cancer coverage
AARON BESECKER, The Buffalo News Published Monday, April 13, 2015

CAMBRIA - The state organization that represents volunteer firefighters says it will continue its push this year for volunteer fire companies' right to bill for ambulance services and to have more types of cancer covered by its health benefit plan.

During a regional legislative meeting at Cambria Volunteer Fire Company on Sunday, the Firemen's Association of the State of New York, or FASNY, also said it wants the state to require smoke detectors with longer-lasting batteries that cannot be removed from the device.

The measures were among nine items from the group's legislative agenda discussed among about 60 representatives of area volunteer fire companies.

Under the Volunteer Firefighters' Benefit Law, there's a presumption that lung cancer was incurred in the firefighter's line of duty and not by the firefighter's own negligence, but the same coverage does not exist for other types of cancer which the group said also results from firefighting.

"Where's the fairness that the paid guys get it and the volunteers don't?" said Robin K. Schott, chairman of the group's Legislative Committee and volunteer with Hutchinson Hose Company in Williamsville.

The primary objection to the proposed expansion of coverage is its cost, he said. The group does not have an estimate for what such a move would cost.

On the issue of being able to charge for ambulance service, volunteer fire companies are prohibited from doing so under state law, said Marc E. Kasprzak, a past president of the Western New York Volunteer Firemen's Association, a member of the state group's Emergency Medical Services Committee and a volunteer with Shawnee Fire Company in Wheatfield.

While volunteer ambulance corps and commercial ambulance companies have the right to charge, the disparity has led some volunteer fire companies to stop providing ambulance service, which is a high-cost operation, Kasprzak said.

The push for this change, which the group says would "even the playing field," has been going on for about a decade, he said.

Bills on the expansion of cancer coverage and the right to bill for ambulance services were first introduced in 2011. The latest attempts to make the changes died in committee in both houses of the State Legislature last year, the organization said.

The state group this year is starting to push for the state to require smoke detectors that have batteries that last at least 10 years and that can't be removed from the device.

Smoke detectors remain critical life-saving equipment, as most fire deaths occur in homes with no smoke alarms or inoperable alarms, the group says.

The association anticipates some resistance because these types of smoke detectors, which are already on the market, are more expensive than the average detector.

The prices start around $20 online, and group representatives say this type of device is cheaper in the long run.

The proposal would be similar to the requirement for carbon monoxide detectors, said David J. Sweet, a member of the group's board from Penfield.

email: abesecker@buffnews.com

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CO Poisoning Claims Four in Queens Home

Car left running in the garage blamed for carbon monoxide deaths
Emergency personel gather near a home where police say four people were found dead in an apparent carbon monoxide poisoning in the Queens borough of New York on Friday, April 10, 2015. (AP Photo/Mike Balsamo)
Published Monday, April 13, 2015

NEW YORK (AP) — Four elderly people were found dead in a home Friday in an apparent carbon monoxide poisoning after a car was left running in an attached garage, police said.

The victims were 83-year-old Jerry Hugel, his wife, 80-year-old Marie Hugel, 70-year-old Gloria Greco and 76-year-old Walter Vonthadden, police said. The bodies were discovered when a relative of the Hugels went to check on them because they hadn't answered the phone at their Queens home. Jerry Hugel was found next to a running car in the garage.

Neighbors lined the streets and sidewalks in the suburban Floral Park neighborhood next to Long Island's Nassau County. Some cried as police officers and firefighters walked around the Cape Cod-style, two-story home.

"They were wonderful people," Helga Harter, a neighbor who had known the couple for decades, said through tears as she stood on a street corner, looking at the home. "They were married for 60 years."

The Hugels had five children, including a son who's a New York Police Department officer, Harter said. The president of the NYPD Sergeants Benevolent Association, Ed Mullins, said members' thoughts and prayers were with the family.

Harter described the Hugels as a "great family" active in the local German community. She last saw them on Wednesday at a meeting of a Bavarian dancing and cultural organization.

"I'm in shock," Harter said. "It's the greatest shock of my life."

Jerry Hugel had been the president of the Bavarian group, the Schlierachtaler Stamm, for more than 40 years until 2013, its website and a member said. He and his wife "were the backbone of everything," member Kathy Fetzer said.

Jerry Hugel moved from Germany to the U.S. in his youth, and Marie Hugel was of Austrian descent, she said. They were always ready to take on anything that needed doing for the organization and had passed the traditions on to their children, she said.

"They just held everything together and made sure it was done right," she said.

The husband was found next to the running car in the garage, and the wife was in a kitchen in the basement. The family friend was in a living room on the first floor, and the tenant was on the first floor.

Carbon monoxide, an odorless and colorless gas, is created when some fuels are burned. The deaths come on the heels of other carbon monoxide exposures that killed at least 10 people on the Eastern Seaboard.

A man and his seven children were found dead Monday in Princess Anne, Maryland, where they apparently were poisoned in their sleep while running a generator after a utility cut power to their home. And a woman and her 7-year-old daughter were found poisoned Wednesday in their home in East Orange, New Jersey, where prosecutors said a utility company had shut off power and a gas generator was being used without proper ventilation.

City Councilman Mark Weprin, who represents the area including Floral Park, said he hopes the tragedy sheds light on the importance of having and maintaining carbon monoxide detectors.

"My thoughts and prayers go out to the friends and families of the victims," he said in an emailed statement.

A friend of the Hugels, Elisabeth Hlawaty, said she traveled across the country with the couple to dance competitions. She said Marie Hugel had used a typewriter to help her children write their college papers.

"She was very involved, very family conscious," Hlawaty said. "She loved all of her children."


Associated Press writer Jennifer Peltz contributed to this report.

Copyright 2015 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
FDNY Firefighter Describes Actions at Manhattan Explosion


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