Union unhappy with plan to take Engine 3 off the road

Union unhappy with plan to take Engine 3 off the road

PAWTUCKET – Members of Pawtucket Firefighters Local 1261 of the International Association of Fire Fighters, embroiled in a long-running contract standoff with Mayor Donald Grebien, say public safety will suffer for the six to eight weeks that Engine 3 is taken off the road to accommodate repairs at Station 3 on Columbus Avenue.

Erik Cordeiro, vice president of the union, said Engine 3 was responsible for about 3,000 service runs last year, and combined with other changes, the whole east side of the city is now left with little coverage. Areas such as Bishops Bend are particularly at risk, he said, with longer response times anticipated.

Cordeiro said the original plan described by Chief William Sisson was to leave Engine 3 in service during the upcoming temporary closure, but that changed after an informational picket by firefighters late last month.

Minimum manning will remain the same, said Cordeiro, and there will be some lessening of safety for firefighters, but their main concern is for the safety of residents. If he’s fighting a fire on Beverage Hill Avenue, the nearest engine companies responding are Engine 4 on Cottage Street or Engine 2 downtown. That will be a response time of at least six minutes, he said.

Firefighters “couldn’t be happier” that repairs are finally being done at Station 3, including a new roof, said Cordeiro, “but I think Engine 3 could easily remain in service” at Station 6 on Smithfield Avenue. There is plenty of space to accommodate keeping Engine 3 on the road, he said. The three firefighters on the truck are still going to be working and need to be housed somewhere.

Upgrades to Station 3 are scheduled to start this month.

Firefighters have been telling residents to call the mayor to urge him to keep Engine 3 in service, calling it “a dangerous game of Russian Roulette.”

The Breeze reported last week that officials are planning $321,000 in upgrades to Station 3. Officials assured residents that adequate response times will be maintained during the temporary shutdown.

The station was intended to be closed permanently three years ago, but those plans were scrapped when Station 1 on West Avenue was shut down.

The decision to upgrade Station 3 near McCoy Stadium came as officials consider building a new public safety complex within the next five years.

City Councilor Terry Mercer, during a meeting last Wednesday, March 6, asked Police Chief and Public Safety Director Tina Goncalves to explain why Engine 3 can’t be housed elsewhere during the closure, suggesting that the area of Division Street and York Avenue could be compromised.

Goncalves said doing so would require moving a battalion chief to the basement of the downtown station, and that simply can’t be accommodated. That chief’s SUV can’t be parked outside due to it needing to be readily accessible, she said, and engine trucks also can’t be kept outside.

She explained that moving Engine 1 to Smithfield Avenue, abutting its original district, makes the most sense, and that station and others on Cottage Street and Roosevelt Avenue will fill in for Station 3.

Mercer asked why a reserve truck at the Cottage Street station can’t be temporarily designated as Engine 3, and Goncalves said the city would then be down to one reserve truck for potential backup needs, forced to rely on more mutual aid from other communities.

City firefighters are already living in tight quarters with one station offline, she added, and Cottage Street can’t absorb a three-man crew.

Goncalves emphasized that there will still be five engines in service, plus two in reserve. Other council members, including Council President David Moran and Councilor Albert Vitali Jr., asked her opinion on if the city will still have adequate coverage during the closure, and she said yes, it will.

Mercer and Rudd pointed out that there’s really no way for Goncalves or anyone else to guarantee that response times won’t be adversely impacted.

Goncalves said officials will review daily logs to “make sure we are where we need to be to protect the city.” Everything will depend on whether other trucks are already in service when a call comes in, she said. The city is already relying on mutual aid from surrounding communities.

Firefighters and city officials are in ongoing arbitration negotiations on a new contract.

Comments

What is the reasoning the chiefs car cannot run out of the basement garage at HQ??

If there’s supposedly no room to house E3, and the public safety director states engines cannot be stored outside, where will E3 be stored??

Why was a perfectly feasible plan, keeping all engines in service, suddenly scrapped after an informational picket happened at the mayors fundraiser?

After the informational picket the mayor chose to put Taxpayers at risk.

What the hell happened to the union? Seems like they just rolled over on this one.
How can the chief agree to put and engine out of service ?
Lots of questions

It appears the chief was never for anyone or anything other than himself.That's your brother

Why can't engine trucks be stored outside temporarily? We are heading into warmer weather not as if it would be in freezing temps...there is a fire truck kept outside of cottage St station