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City, Firefighters Union Dispute Whether Bronx Fire Response Was Delayed By 911 System

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There's a heated battle between the city and the firefighters union over the response time to a fire in the Bronx that took place early Wednesday morning.

The firefighters' union says there was a 12-minute gap in relaying crucial information for a fire in the Parkchester section of the Bronx early Wednesday morning through the city's 911 system, which has come under heavy scrutiny for being prone to technical glitches.

The city disputes that, however, saying crews were on the scene less than five minutes after the call came in.

The flames broke out shortly before 3 a.m. inside a home located at 1507-1509 Commonwealth Avenue in Parkchester.

Fire marshals say the fire was an accidental electrical fire.

It affected three buildings and displaced five families before it was brought under control after about two and a half hours.

Two children suffered smoke inhalation, and four firefighters suffered minor injuries.

The Red Cross says it is helping about 25 people affected by the fire.

The firefighters' union says it got a picture of a 911 computer screen that shows that the first call for help came in at around 2:40 a.m. but firefighters were not dispatched until 2:48 a.m.

The union says it took firefighters another three minutes and 35 seconds to get to the fire, for a total response time of 11 minutes and 57 seconds.

"The reason that this fire got out of control is, when we got there, it was already out of control," said Stephen Cassidy, president of the Uniformed Firefighters Association. "It was an eight minute and 22 second delay."

Deputy Mayor for Operations Cas Holloway and Mayor Michael Bloomberg said that the firefighters' union is way off base.

The city says the call came in at 2:47 a.m., and they say crews were on the scene less than five minutes after that.

"That's why it is so important not to just rely on a sheet of paper with a bunch of numbers on it," Holloway said. "This is highly sophisticated. Every one of these calls has a history to it, and professionals interpret it, and I am telling you, it was four minutes and 43 seconds. It is the worst example, and it's just totally not true."

"And I might point out, Steve Cassidy, I know him very well. He's a smart guy, and he should be ashamed of himself for trying to create something that isn't true," Bloomberg said. "He really does understand the system. He's a very smart guy, and he should know better. I'm just not going to negotiate new firehouses and more fire trucks and more members from him by doing this. It's just not productive at all."

The city says the 2:40 a.m. time stamp shown on the screen was actually left over from a previous 911 call.

The union says that's a problem.

"So now they turn around, saying 'Maybe there is a mistake, and we want you to trust us and not the document that says it took eight minutes and 22 seconds?' That's hard for me to understand, and it's even harder for me to believe," Cassidy said.

The police department did allow NY1 to listen to what it says is a 911 call from residents.
On it, the operator, the dispatcher and caller are all on the line in about a minute, and in about two minutes, the caller is told that a fire truck is on the way.

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