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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Airport Firefighters Oppose Rochester Fire Department Station Closures

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Fifty-six years ago today, Mohawk Airlines Flight 121 crashed upon takeoff at the Rochester Airport, killing 7 people and injuring 36 others. Airport firefighters responded immediately and were able to rescue a number of people from the aircraft with help from other airport workers and outside fire companies. To this day, it remains the worst aviation accident in local history. While many things have changed in both the firefighting and aviation industries, one thing that has not is our members’ reliance on outside agencies in the event of a major disaster. In spite of our constant training to maximize our crews efficiency, with just five on-duty members there is only so much we will be able to do without help from other agencies.

Last night, the City of Rochester implemented the first fire station closure under its “dynamic staffing” plan, which chooses a company to close during the overnight hours, when residents are most at risk. These closures - also known as ‘brownouts’ or ‘firehouse roulette’ - arbitrarily choose a neighborhood to receive reduced protection for a specified period of time. It’s a tactic that hasn’t been used much locally, but has seen tragic results when implemented elsewhere. In Philadelphia, a 12-year-old boy died in 2010 while the closest engine company was ‘browned out’. In 2017, three people were killed in a Holyoke, MA fire in which the closest engine company was closed. In Wilmington, DE, 2016 saw two children and three firefighters killed in the course of eight months. At least two other firefighters were forced to retire due to injuries sustained at a fire. These are just a few of the many stories one can find by briefly searching the internet.

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