BUFFALO, NY (WIVB) The Buffalo Fire Department plans to begin using Chevrolet Tahoes instead of pumper trucks to respond to first aid calls.
“This is a safety issue for the citizens,” according to Buffalo Professional Firefighters Union President Vinny Ventresca. He opposes the plan. First aid calls are the most common type of calls that firefighters are sent to, and four firefighters would still travel together in the SUV’s.
The problem, according to Ventresca, is if a fire breaks out while the crew is not in a pumper truck. “When you send someone on an SUV, they can’t respond to a fire…cannot. You’re gonna have a situation where a fire comes in and no one’s gonna be able to respond. No one’s coming, and if they’re coming, they’re coming from far away.”
But Fire Commissioner William Renaldo says a situation like that is rare. “You know it does happen. I’m not saying it doesn’t happen, but it happens very infrequently and when it does, that’s why we have all this other apparatus strategically located throughout the city.”
On Tuesday, Common Council members were comfortable enough with the idea to approve the purchase of four Chevy Tahoes as so called Alternative Response Vehicles. “We’re willing to give it a try,” said Lovejoy District Council Member Richard Fontana. “I mean there are some economies of scale here that make sense. Is it easier to get to EMS calls with a four wheel drive Tahoe in the winter? I would think it is.”
The four SUVs have already been ordered with plans to have them up and running in a few months at the four busiest fire houses. It’s a plan the city is going to try despite opposition from the union.
“It’s unsafe for the citizens, it’s unsafe for the firefighters, it’s a reduction in services, it’s a reduction in fire coverage and right now there’s inadequate fire coverage in the city,” said Ventresca.