New details have emerged from yesterday’s two-alarm fire in the City of Newburgh that drew fire departments from two counties. The Newburgh News first broke the story early Sunday morning (story here). See a video below.
Firefighters received numerous calls at approximately 2:15am on Sunday, February 26, 2023, reporting that children were trapped inside of a three-story building that was on fire at 87 City Terrace, located in the area of St. Luke’s Hospital in the City of Newburgh.
Four firefighters were injured battling the raging inferno, The Newburgh News has learned.
The City of Newburgh Fire Department responded to the large blaze with just one pumper and one ladder truck that does not carry water. According to the IAFF Local 589, there were only seven firefighters on duty at the time. The incident commander and the drivers of both rigs remained outside to perform their duties, leaving only four firefighters to search three floors for victims, battle the blaze, and ventilate the roof.
The firefighters’ efforts were hampered by downed electrical wires and problems with obtaining water to put on the fire, the IAFF Local 589 stated.
The City of Newburgh Police Department realized that firefighters were short-staffed and began assisting with firefighting operations. Police officers sprung into action and helped firefighters establish an alternative water source since the first hydrant reportedly did not work.
When firefighters first arrived on the scene, the City of Newburgh Fire Department’s incident commander transmitted a second alarm. The Vail’s Gate, Middlehope, and Cronomer Valley Fire Departments were all called to help, but all three companies said they were unable to respond. West Point firefighters hustled over Storm King Mountain with a pumper to assist Newburgh in battling the inferno. The Air National Guard Fire Department at Stewart Airport also responded with a pumper. A crew from the Castle Point Fire Department, as well as the Coldenham Fire Department, responded into the city to cover any additional emergencies.
There is no word on any injuries to the residents. Mobile Life Support Services responded to treat those who were injured.
The dangerously low staffing levels of the fire department have drawn widespread public outcry since city leaders dropped the staffing levels in January of 2022.
On June 15, 2022, a mother was killed and others victims jumped out of windows to save their lives when a three-story house on Lander Street caught fire (story here). The public and firefighters blamed the City Council for the death because only a few firefighters were on duty to fight the fire. City leaders alleged their were other contributing factors that caused the woman to die in the fire.
On July 11, 2022, a crowd of angry residents flocked to a City Council meeting demanding adequate fire protection in the City of Newburgh (story here). Mayor Torrance Harvey, who is up for re-election this year, became irate and began screaming during the meeting when residents told the Council they had “blood on (their) hands.” City officials have since publicly defended the inadequate staffing by blaming firefighters for not approving the city’s proposed labor/management contract.
New York State Senator Rob Rolison chimed in regarding yesterday’s fire, “Good work done under difficult conditions. Hoping for a full recovery for the injured members.”
The Newburgh City Council recently proposed creating a new position and hiring a Fire Commissioner (story here) while a full engine company still remains closed.
“That new $120k political hack fire commissioner is going to make all the difference on the street,” retired City of Newburgh Fire Chief Michael Vatter sarcastically wrote.
“The officials of this city should be held personally accountable for all the injuries sustained at these fires as it’s their faults,” raged City of Kingston Fire Department Lieutenant Jay Drury.