Holyoke mayor responds to allegations that fire dept. is underfunded, understaffed

Engine 2 has been "browned out" for two years.

HOLYOKE, Mass. (WWLP) – Holyoke Mayor Alex Morse has announced that he’s willing to talk to the city council about fire trucks that are out of service due to “brownouts,” in response to criticism alleging the deadly New Year’s Day fire could have ended differently if Engine 2 was in service.

A brownout is when a city takes a fire truck out of service due to a lack of staff or funding.

A group of protesters stood outside the city hall on Tuesday urging the mayor to stop brownouts, and to fully fund and staff the fire department.The protests came more than a week after the deadly New Year’s Day fire in Holyoke, that killed three people, and left 50 homeless.

3 dead after Holyoke apartment fire Sunday

A Holyoke firefighters union has claimed if Engine 2, which was browned out two years ago, was in service on New Year’s Day, three more firefighters would have been there to help. Morse posted a video to his Facebook page Tuesday night in response to the criticism. He says he is willing to discuss the brownouts with city council, but warned changes won’t happen immediately. He said their goal is to reduce overtime spending while maintaining adequate fire protection.

Morse and Holyoke Fire Chief John Pond have both said the browning out of Engine 2 did not affect the fire at 106 North East Street.

“There were two particular issues at hand with this incident,” Morse said. “Number one, the alarm in the building that should have connected to the fire department, wasn’t operating that day, and number two, there were no sprinklers in the building.”

Morse, who called public safety his main priority, said the city is taking steps to prevent future tragedies, which includes the effort to hire ten new firefighters within the next few months.