STATEN ISLAND — Fire fighting units specially designed to fight brush blazes on Staten Island won't be replaced for at least a year, putting the lives of first responders at risk, Borough President James Oddo said.
After Hurricane Sandy destroyed three of the island's five units, the FDNY ordered five new ones.
But Oddo said it would take at least a year to get the first one, and Staten Island could be potentially left covering two brush fire seasons without them.
"While I am happy that we are getting five all new brush fire units, I am very disappointed with the timetable,” Oddo said in a statement.
“The fact is that not only will we not have these units for the spring or fall brush fire season this year, we are staring at the reality that we will not even have them for the spring season next year. That is scary, and it means that our firefighters will continue to lack the basic tools they need during brush fires."
According to a letter sent to Oddo, the FDNY said it is in the process of buying five new units for $562,000 each, and will take delivery of the first in about 300 days. The borough will get a new one each month after that.
A spokeswoman for the FDNY said that while the units are helpful, firefighters can still effectively fight brush fires without them.
"Unfortunately, Hurricane Sandy destroyed many of our brush fire units, which augment our extensive firefighting staffing, apparatus and tactics used to combat brush fires," the spokeswoman said.
"While replacements are on order — and will provide us with dramatically improved vehicles — we are considering a range of options as an interim measure to provide the best capable resources."
The FDNY also said they were in the process of acquiring a smaller machine, that will be delivered within four to six months, and that they have equipped all trucks in engine companies around the borough with a special hose to help combat brush fires.
However, Oddo still called being left without the extra units "scary." He became aware of the damaged units when he was visiting Engine 151 in April and they had to respond to the brush fire on Western and Gulf avenues.
He sent a letter to Commissioner Salvatore Cassano that week urging speed to replace the machines.
"While I understand that the three BFU’s will likely not be available before the end of the spring brush fire season, I am asking that every effort be made to ensure their availability for the fall season," Oddo wrote.