Crisis? 26 FDNY firehouses out of service over vaccine mandate staff shortage

The shutdown came amid a pitched battle between City Hall, which on Monday will start enforcing a mandate that all city workers have at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, and jab-resisting firefighters, many reportedly saying they were already sick with the coronavirus and therefore have “natural immunity.”

Nicole Malliotakis (R-SI, Brooklyn) said 26 companies shuttered — five in her district — and laid the blame on  Mayor de Blasio.

“If someone dies due to a slower emergency response, it’s on Bill de Blasio and his overreaching mandates. I hope this fool fixes it ASAP!” she tweeted. Some residents rallied outside of the Ladder Company 149 in Dyker Heights to support the firefighters.

Fire Commissioner Daniel A. Nigro said the department “has not closed any firehouses.

Irresponsible bogus sick leave by some of our members is creating a danger for New Yorkers and their fellow Firefighters,” Nigro said. “They need to return to work or risk the consequences of their actions.”

No borough or neighborhood was spared, with the shuttered companies ranging from Engine Co. 55 in lower Manhattan, to Engine Co. 234 in Crown Heights, to Engine Co. 231 in Brownsville. Others included Ladder Co. 128 in Long Island City and Engine Co. 158 and Ladder Co. 78 on Staten Island, according to information provided by Malliotakis and Councilman Joe Borelli (R-SI), who cited the Uniformed Firefighters Association. Borelli said the list of 26 came from a FDNY alert dispatched to members.

The FDNY has shut down 26 firehouses across the city due to staff shortages caused by the city's COVID-19 vaccine mandate.
The FDNY has shut down 26 firehouses across the city due to staff shortages caused by the city’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate.
Daniel William McKnight

FDNY spokesman Jim Long said the closings are not permanent, describing the companies as “temporarily out of service” and the situation as “fluid” since it was shifting firefighters to units where they were needed.

As of late Saturday afternoon, the FDNY could not provide an exact number of closings that the pols said were in effect as of 7:30 am Saturday.

“The situation remains fluid. We hire manpower to get the company back in service or relocate other units to the area for coverage,” Long said.

In anticipation of a shortage of firefighters, NYPD’s Emergency Service Unit has requested the help of volunteer firefighters from Long Island and upstate to back fill the lost positions, according to an email obtained by The Post.

That was little solace to retired electrician Vinny Agro, 63, who lives across the street from now-offline Engine Co. 284 in Dyker Heights, Brooklyn.

The FDNY's vaccination rate was at 72 percent at the deadline for the vaccine mandate on Friday.
The FDNY’s vaccination rate was at 72 percent at the deadline for the vaccine mandate on Friday.
REUTERS/Lloyd Mitchell

“We’re f- -ked. We are going to toast like marshmallows,” he said. “It’s another sad day for New York City.”

A man who lives next door to the firehouse said that he had not seen firefighters for about 24 hours and that they were desperately needed in the neighborhood.

“Most of the houses here are semi-attached frame houses. You throw a match on it, and it goes up real quick,” he said. “You need a quick response . . . it’s scary.”

Fire officials said last week that they were prepared to close as much as 20 percent of the companies citywide.

Saturday’s temporary closures represented 7.6 percent of the city’s 341 engine and ladder companies. But it was still an “unconscionable” number, said Borelli, who chairs the council’s committee on fire and emergency management.

“The firefighters who are unable to work have all been tested within the week and are not COVID positive, and I doubt New Yorkers care about the vaccine status of the person applying defibrillators to their chest,” he said.

Donald Watson, 57, a Downtown Brooklyn resident, said the firefighters were just “looking out for themselves.”

“It’s sad we have to go through this because of COVID,” Watson said. “A lot of them don’t want to take the shot. C’mon. It’s nothing but a shot.”

The FDNY’s vaccination rate stood at 72 percent for firefighters — and 77 percent agencywide — at the end of Friday, the city’s deadline for workers to get at least one dose of the vaccine, according to data from City Hall. Nearly 4,000 FDNY employees remained unvaccinated.

The mandate is expected to be enforced beginning Monday, and 26,600 city workers across all city agencies were still unvaccinated as of Friday night, according to City Hall. Those who don’t have at least one jab will be suspended without pay.

The NYPD stood at 84 percent of personnel vaccinated, and the Sanitation Department was at 77 percent.

The 77th Precinct in Crown Heights, Brooklyn, was slow to respond to calls Friday night as four officers on the 4 p.m.-to-midnight shift called in sick, sources said. Call logs showed response times of more than two hours in some cases.

The FDNY has blamed the shortage on people calling out sick to protest the mandate.
The FDNY has blamed the shortage on people calling out sick to protest the mandate.
NHLI via Getty Images

“We have contingency plans in place if necessary, and there will not be any shortages in any commands. There will be no reduction in police services,” an NYPD spokeswoman said.

The FDNY — as its top boss did Saturday — has blamed the staffing shortage on firefighters calling out sick, with one insider saying “hundreds” of members have been taking medical leave to protest the mandate.

“It’s definitely a sick-out. It’s a job action,” the insider said. “If they call in sick they have to go to the medical office. The medical office is overwhelmed.”

More than two dozen FDNY members were seen leaving the department’s medical office at the MetroTech center in Downtown Brooklyn Saturday.

A memo sent to members of the Uniformed Fire Officers Association on Friday said it was “still in negotiations” with the Office of Labor Relations “for an extension to the deadline as well as alternate methods of implementation.”

The memo, seen by The Post, advised all members, vaccinated or not, to report for duty when scheduled and make notations in the fire company’s journal about why they were asked to leave.

De Blasio has held firm, saying on Thursday that the city would not extend the jab deadline.

Vaccinations surged statewide this week, with 103,348 doses administered from Friday to Saturday, Gov. Hochul said on Saturday. On Monday, 45,217 doses had been given out in the previous 24 hours.

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