On Monday morning the union representing 50 firefighters in the city released a statement saying the Jamestown Fire Department is understaffed and unable to properly handle everyday emergencies within the city.
Since 2009, the union says the number of calls in the city have “steadily increased” while the number of firefighters available to respond have been reduced.
“The lack of commitment by Jamestown officials to properly address the minimum NFPA standards as well as failure to address the increase of emergency ambulance requests continues to be a major liability for the city and places our citizens at even more rise,” the union said in a press release.
While the Union spent a great deal of time Monday going on the attack, Jamestown Mayor Sam Teresi explained during Monday Night’s Jamestown City Council work session that he would not be responding to the concerns because the firefighters are still working without a new contract.
“Any questions to me, the administrative staff, or the city council that drags us over the line and bating us into comments about collective bargaining negotiations… we are not going to be taking that bait, because ultimately what it could do is drag the city into the improper labor practice of negotiating contracts out in public,” Teresi said.
The union specifically mentioned staffing of the department’s ambulance and ladder truck, saying there isn’t enough manpower to run both vehicles at once. That’s because an increase in the number of EMS calls in the city has forced the fire department to use its ambulance more frequently.
Teresi did acknowledge that’s been a recent challenge, but not one that is unique to Jamestown.
“The issue at hand is that the private, for-profit ambulance operator – Altar, now operated by the UPMC Chautauqua – has basically been gearing down its level of service for some time, putting more pressure on our backup transport system we have hear operated by the Jamestown Fire Department. We’ve never had a full time fire department ambulance service,” Teresi said.
The mayor said that hopefully a new plan can be rolled out locally or regionally to address the rise in EMS calls. In the meantime, he’s included two new ambulances in his Smart City Capital Investment program in order to make sure other city stations can also respond to calls if needed, rather than have all responses come out of station 1 downtown.
Firefighters handled 4,392 EMS calls last year. Of those responses, 532 patients were transported by the city’s ambulance. Currently the city fire department has 50 firefighters.