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Twenty Fire Companies Face Chopping Block Again

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With 20 fire companies on the budget chopping block, FDNY Commissioner Salvatore Cassano pleaded with the City Council for more money to keep them open, and if history is any guide, he won't be disappointed. NY1's Josh Robin filed the following report.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg has been threatening to shut down a TriBeCa firehouse for years. This year, it's once again one of 20 on the block scheduled to close, worrying those depending on it.

"It would be devastating, I think, for the neighborhood," said one resident.

Devastating, except that no one thinks it will actually close.

It, and 19 others, are expected to be saved under a last-minute deal with the City Council, just like they waer last year and the year before.

But that's only the expectation.

"Every year, we do have this dance, but it's real," said Queens Councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley. "The mayor has closed fire companies back in 2003, so under his administration, and while I hope that we agree, the council, the speaker and the mayor, once again, I can't say it for sure."

The closings were part of a city council hearing Thursday.

"Twenty companies is a big chunk of our operation, and it would affect everybody citywide," said Fire Commissioner Salvatore Cassano.

No matter what happens, Cassano said the department is poised to grow by more than 600 firefighters a year.

Legal issues have left the department short about 500 now.

Despite those lower numbers, officials said the 58 fire-related deaths last year are the lowest in the FDNY's recorded history.

Some questioned the department's readiness for Hurricane Sandy, which, of course, would end up ranking among its biggest challenges since the September 11th attacks.

Flooding, and a flood of 911 calls, left the FDNY delayed in reaching emergencies, especially along the Rockaway peninsula.

Because it was so busy, a Manhattan unit was the first to reach the inferno in Breezy Point.

One fire union official said the department only called in 11 percent more staff but faced a 200 percent surge in incidents.

"What you have to do is actually go beyond the tri-state area in situations like this and preorder," said Kat Thomson of the Uniformed Fire Officers' Association.

The FDNY said its problems during Hurricane Sandy weren't as much deficits of manpower as equipment. To that end, the department said it is eyeing additional boats.

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