Remembering The Blackharts

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One year ago tonight, on January 20th, 2021, the members of IAFF Local 1636 were part of a large public safety contingent that responded to Mendon for the crash of a Rochester-based NY Army Reserve National Guard Blackhawk helicopter. In a sequence of events reminiscent of the Mohawk Airlines crash, several off-duty Firefighters were at the firehouse due to an Alert 2 that had concluded just minutes before. In 1963, a false alarm brought many personnel to the firehouse shortly before the worst aviation accident in local history occurred. Both times, an immediate response followed with more manpower than would normally have been available. Unfortunately, the accident was not survivable and all three soldiers on board were killed, but amazingly there were no injuries on the ground.

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Airport Firefighters Denounce Governor’s Veto of Retirement Bill

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Recently, NY State Governor Kathy Hochul vetoed Senate bill S4859 which would have created a 25 year retirement plan for Firefighters within the NYS Division of Military and Naval Affairs (DMNA). This bill was unanimously passed by members of both the State Senate and Assembly, along with each of the committees assigned to research its impact. We are unsure as to why she vetoed the bill, but the Governor will not feel the ramifications of her action - our brother and sister firefighters will. While firefighters assigned to airports and military bases typically do not experience the same call volume as other municipal Fire Departments - due largely to the highly controlled environments we protect - we still face the same dangers as all other career departments. For that reason alone, DMNA Firefighters should be afforded comparable retirements.

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Aircraft Diverts to ROC With Major Fuel Leak

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August 1, 2021 - Rochester Airport Firefighters responded for an Alert 2 after being notified of a CRJ-7 diverting to ROC reporting a fuel leak with 54 souls on board, and 2,100 pounds of fuel remaining - incorrectly relayed as 21,000 pounds. As Firefighters positioned along the runway to await the its arrival, ROC’s Air Traffic Controllers guided the aircraft to land on Runway 4. As the pilots began their final approach, it became obvious that the leak was a significant one due to the fuel spilling out of the left engine giving the aircraft what looked like a long vapor trail.

Upon landing safely and stopping on the runway, the professional Firefighters of ROC airport immediately surrounded the aircraft to protect the passengers and crew on board. In order to prevent a fire, the crew was told to shut down both engines as there was still a significant amount of fuel spilling onto the runway. Unfortunately, the APU also needed to be shut down meaning comfort controls were powered down with it, likely causing some uncomfortable conditions onboard the aircraft. Due to temperatures at the time, the decision was made to hold off on covering the fuel with AFFF foam and instead cover it with absorbent material including dry sand provided by Airport Operations.

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Statement on Appointment of Airport Fire Chief

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In spite of what many people have heard or been led to believe, the Firefighters and Fire Captains that this Union represents have been working without the guidance of a Fire Chief at the Frederick-Douglass Greater Rochester International Airport since March 2020. Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, the majority of the responsibilities a Fire Chief is supposed to handle instead fell largely on the shoulders of the junior Captains and even on the Union leadership. We have remained quiet on this matter publicly in order to try and maintain a working relationship with the Airport Director, and later the airport’s Special Projects Manager Dave Young, whom was appointed as our administrative liaison. While there were some obvious growing pains, the consensus among our membership is that morale has greatly improved and the efficiency of the unit as a whole has increased during these last 16 months despite the hiring of seven new Firefighters during that time.

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Two Airport Firefighters Retired This Week

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Two of our members reached the pinnacle of their careers this week, representing a combined 48 years of experience. They are the 6th and 7th retirements in the last 16 months, and bring us to 10 members (out of 21) that have either retired or transferred in just under two years!

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Statement on the Passing of Richard ‘Dick’ Ziegler

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As we approach the anniversary of the deadliest airliner crash in local history, the Rochester Airport Firefighters Association, IAFF Local 1636 is saddened to announce the passing of Richard ‘Dick’ Ziegler. Dick is believed to be the last surviving responder to the Mohawk Airlines crash at KROC on July 2, 1963 where he was credited with saving at least a dozen lives.

Dick was one of several airport mechanics that were cross-trained as a firefighter to supplement the ‘crash crew’ before he transferred to Pure Waters, where he eventually retired. According to a statement from the Spencerport Fire District, Dick was in the company of his wife and children when he passed away yesterday morning at the age of 83. He was a Spencerport volunteer firefighter since 1962, serving in many roles throughout the years.

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Airport Firefighters Association Welcomes 3 New Members

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The Rochester Airport Firefighters Association welcomed 3 new members last week. Probationary Firefighters Daniel Maggio, Justin McGory, and Patrick Spear were all hired as Airport Firefighters recently, and all three made the decision to support the Union that supports them. With their commitment, our Union continues to maintain 100% membership in spite of the rhetoric that was spread around the Janus decision in 2018. The leadership of Local 1636 is proud to welcome aboard these Professional Firefighters and we all look forward to working with them throughout their careers!

In other member-related news from the last year, we'd like to publicly congratulate the following people;

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