HOLYOKE, Mass. (WWLP) – A fire at an apartment building in Holyoke New Year’s Day morning left three people dead and 50 others were forced from their homes.
Now, members of the Holyoke Firefighters Union are saying the outcome could have been different.
The Holyoke Firefighters Local 1693 says they are understaffed, underfunded, and Engine 2 was not in service that morning which could have altered the outcome of Sunday’s fire. The union says Engine 2 is located on High Street and has been out of service for almost two years because of lack of funding and staffing.
The union says it would have arrived with Engine 1 and Truck 1 providing significant aid with three additional firefighters. Holyoke Mayor Alex Morse and Chief John Pond have stated that Engine 2 would not have made a difference in response.
“I will tell you that the fire department did respond efficiently and effectively and appropriately to that situation,” said Chief Pond.
“This is not the time or place for politics. You know these are people’s lives that were lost and what we should be doing is focusing on honoring their memory and making sure every family affected has a place to sleep, so this is not going to be an issue that I am going to politicize and neither should the fire department union. I stand with our Fire Chief and his comments yesterday that the brownout had no impact on the response to this fire,” said Mayor Morse.
“I’m not a politician, I’m a firefighter and my job is to save lives. His job is to provide us with that opportunity with a fully funded fire department. He can be a politician and I’ll be a firefighter. Just give us the tools we need and the apparatus we need to do this job and protect this city. This is about lives Mr. Mayor. This is about saving lives not remembering lives,” said Lieutenant Chad Cunningham, President of Holyoke Firefighters Local 1693.
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Lt. Cunningham said they had only six firefighters for the first four minutes of the fire. The city currently has 78 firefighters, but it would need ten more to be fully staffed, Lt. Cunningham said.
If more firefighters were hired they would still need to go through training which can take several months.