A seemingly positive announcement from the Philadelphia Fire Department has sparked anger among the firefighter union.
On Wednesday, the Fire Department announced there were 25 fire fatalities in Philadelphia in 2012, the lowest number in the city’s recorded history. The Department made the following statement:
The year 2012 closed marking Philadelphia’s history with the lowest recorded fire fatality rate. For another year the Philadelphia Fire Department worked tirelessly and consistently towards achieving the goal of zero fire fatalities. During 2012, there were a total of twenty-five (25) fire fatalities which is the lowest number of fire fatalities in Philadelphia’s recorded history. Of the twenty-five (25) fire fatalities, thirteen (13) fatalities occurred in properties that did not have smoke alarms, or had smoke alarms with inoperable or missing batteries. A total of eight (8) fire fatalities occurred in properties with smoke alarms that did activate, and a total of four (4) fire fatalities, occurred in properties where smoke alarms were present but were in a remote location from the smoke and fire. Twenty-five (25) fire fatalities is a 22% drop compared to last year which was thirty-two (32) fire fatalities.
Fire Commissioner Lloyd Ayers reports that during 2012, the Department responded to 276,939 emergency incidents, a decrease of 0.3% over 2011. Of these incidents, 231,520 were emergency medical incidents, an increase of 0.8%, and 45,419 were fire and other 911 emergency public safety service requests, a decrease of 5.3%.
“In keeping with our goal of Zero Fire Fatalities and Community Risk Reduction, smoke alarms continue to be the best method for early warning of fires, and Philadelphia continues to see a trend in the reduction of fire fatalities,” said Fire Commissioner Lloyd Ayers.
Ayers is also focusing on the implementation of “Community Risk Reduction,” which officials say will “identify and prioritize fire and life safety risks, and focus energy on mitigation and prevention.”
“Community Risk Reduction balances emergency responses with proactive, focused, prevention efforts driven by local data so those efforts are directed to where they are most needed,” said Commissioner Ayers.
Yet while many were pleased with the news, two notable omissions drew the ire of the firefighters union Local 22 President Bill Gault. Gault stated the following in a released statement:
While PFD leadership was busy patting themselves on the back, they forgot to count the tragic, fire-related deaths of Lt. Robert Neary and Fire Fighter Daniel Sweeney in the Kensington warehouse inferno. The omission isn't surprising. Fire fighters simply don't count, as far as this administration is concerned. The relatively low number of fire deaths in Philadelphia is attributable to the valor, dedication and professionalism of the rank and file fire fighters of this city, who continue to lay their lives on the line despite being treated with nothing but contempt by this mayoral administration.
NBC10 reached out to a spokesman with the Mayor’s Office who responded to Gault’s statement with one of his own:
The annual PFD report lists CIVILIAN fire deaths. That’s the point of the report. Nobody, least of all Lloyd Ayers, will forget their fallen fellow officers.
In fact, the dept. sends the report of those deaths to the National Fallen Firefighters Registry. Those men will never be forgotten and it’s beyond crass the way union boss Gault has tried to exploit these fallen heroes.
Indeed, this is a new all-time low for a union boss who is long on hysteria and falsehoods and rather short on the facts. This dept., like other city depts., has had budget cuts during the severe recession. And yet they’ve done more with less. It’s a tribute to managers and rank and file firefighters.
The Firefighter’s union has been locked in a lengthy with the city over a contract dispute.