Updated 12/20/2011 09:45 AM
Brooklyn Brownstone Fire Injures Five Firefighters, One Seriously
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The firefighters union is blaming staffing cuts for a slowed response to a brownstone fire in Crown Heights Monday that injured five firefighters, including one who suffered serious burns.
The New York City Fire Department says flames broke out on the second floor of a brownstone located at 1102 Prospect Place in Crown Heights just after 9 a.m.
The fire quickly spread to the third floor, trapping firefighters James Gersbeck, 52, and Robert Wiedman, 38.
"The whole top floor just broke out in flames up there. Just all of the sudden, out of nowhere," said one neighbor.
Gersbeck escaped down the stairs while Wiedman was helped out a front window.
He was burned on 25 percent of his body.
"He was on fire. He was on fire. And it didn't even look like a person at first. It was like what is that? Then you saw him move his arm. That's when you could realize it was a person. And another firefighter was coming up the ladder trying to help him down, so it was bad," said one neighbor.
Three other firefighters were also hurt.
A fire chief at the scene says it was not as bad as it could have been.
"The good news here today is the protective equipment they were wearing really helped them not sustain what could have been true life-threatening injuries," said FDNY Deputy Chief Edward Baggott.
Back in February, the Bloomberg administration reduced the engine crews from five firefighters to four at more than a quarter of the city's 200 engine companies, including the one that responded Monday.
The Uniformed Firefighters Association says those staffing cuts left the crew undermanned and it took longer to get water on the fire.
"Fires double exponentially every two minutes. Today a delay in 20 or 30 seconds was the result of this fire getting out of control. The first engine company which is normally fully staffed, was understaffed. The results were a disaster," said UFA President Stephen Cassidy.
Fire Department sources say the crew arrived at the fire in three minutes and firefighters were putting water on it just a few minutes later.
The cause of the fire remains under investigation.