Nearly a third of New York City’s firefighters are off-duty as a result of de Blasio’s vaccine mandate, with 800 EMTs also refusing to take the shot along with 5,400 cops .
As of Tuesday morning, 3,300 of the FDNY’s 11,000 firefighters were not working, including 1,000 who have taken unpaid leave as a result of the mandate and 2,300 who are on sick leave. In total, 2,530 are unvaccinated but it’s unclear how many among them have been given exemptions and are still allowed to work.
Fire chiefs say the majority of those who are on sick leave are unvaccinated – a claim that was denied by the unions on Tuesday at a meeting where more than 40 firefighters showed up to protest the mandate and seek support.
It slices a considerable chunk out of those who are responding to calls, forcing those who are working to pull up the slack in understaffed fire companies now riding four per engine in some parts of Manhattan, instead of the usual eight to 12.
There are still 5,400 unvaccinated NYPD cops and 794 unvaccinated EMTs – the staff equivalent to 400 ambulances. The majority of the unvaccinated cops are still on the streets because they have filed exemptions.
EMTs say that when one ambulance goes down, it can increase 911 wait times by up to three minutes – a fatal amount of time in some serious medical emergencies.
Now, the emergency workers are in a stand-off with City Hall, with both side blaming the other for bringing the worrying staff shortages on New York City residents.
The workers say they shouldn’t be forced into taking a vaccine that is less than a year old when millions around the world – including in other parts of the country – are skeptical of it. Some cite religious beliefs for their hesitancy, and also say they feel betrayed to have been forced into it by a city that should consider them heroes.
‘I feel betrayed. I worked the busiest year in EMS history in the pandemic last year – we had 7,000 calls on one day.
‘This should be about choice. People’s livelihoods shouldn’t be put on the line. It’s freedom… this is America.
‘It’s supposed to be, “you do what’s best for you,”‘ Shem Lafleur, an EMT who worked for the FDNY for 15 years before his final shift on Sunday night, told DailyMail.com on Tuesday.
Scroll down for video
Shem Lafleur, an EMT who has worked for the FDNY for 15 years, told DailyMail.com on Tuesday morning that he has taken unpaid leave because he feels he’s been pushed ‘against a wall’ to take a vaccine he does not trust. He wanted to wait until the vaccines had been around for a few years before he made a decision on which to take. Now, he has no job
‘I’m not anti-vax, eventually I’ll get one once I am comfortable with it but I am not going to be forced, pushed against the wall,’ he added.
Around 40 unvaccinated firefighters showed up to an emergency resource department meeting set up by their union on Tuesday at a hotel in Manhattan. Some had been sent home from their fire stations the previous day after reporting for duty.
These were the total number of vaccinated cops, firefighters and EMTs on Tuesday morning
Nico Galetovic, a firefighter out of Engine 70, told DailyMail.com at the meeting that he refused the vaccine because of his religious beliefs.
‘It has to do with my religious beliefs. I don’t identify with any specific church… it’s written in the scriptures.
‘Some bible verses reference it,’ he said.
Lafleur, the EMT who is now out of work, said he will in all likelihood get vaccinated eventually but he does not yet feel comfortable because of how new the shots are.
‘When I read up on the J&J shot, it scared me.
‘There were a lot of issues pertaining to my medical history. I wanted to wait until the right time- when a new video game system comes up, people rush to buy it you have glitches, bugs, updates…. usually after about a year and a half, sometimes a bit more, they start to resolve these things. I gave myself about a 2.5 year span to get it.
‘I am not against the vaccine – I never have been – I’m never going to ridicule anyone who took it or didn’t take it,’ he said.
He said that even if one ambulance goes down (two EMTs) – wait times could increase by up to three or four minutes.
‘Even if one ambulance was to go out of service everybody feels it… it is affecting the city. If a station has about 50 people, and three people call out, you feel the impact because somebody is going to have to work an extra 4,6,8 hours and if you need two people to man an ambulance.
‘If just one unit in a station of eight goes down, everybody feels it.’
Right now, there are 794 unvaccinated EMTs which is the equivalent to 400 ambulances. The average response time for an ambulance in NYC is around 7 minutes for the most life threatening cases.
Of the dozens of firefighters who attended the union meeting on Tuesday, the majority did not want to speak publicly for fear of being chastised once they get back to work.
‘It has to do with my religious beliefs. I don’t identify with any specific church… it’s written in the scriptures. Some bible verses reference it
Unvaccinated firefighter Nico Galetovic who is now on unpaid leave
Andrew Ansbro, the President of the Uniformed Firefighters Association, said the fire department is ‘falling apart behind the scenes’ while bosses claim service is unaffected.
NYC firefighters are being worked to their limits… saying we held it together yesterday is irrelevant. It’s inhumane. It’s falling apart behind the scenes and they refuse to admit it.
‘I pray it doesn’t cost the life of NYC citizens of firefighters. 60 companies were closed yesterday.
‘There’s well over 1,000 firefighters that are placed on leave. Bring them back.’
One firefighter at Engine 65 on West 43rd Street in Manhattan disclosed that they were riding with only four firefighters in an engine – the legal minimum – when normally they would have up to double that number.
‘It’s been a rough week,’ one firefighter at the station said on Tuesday morning.
City Hall and the FDNY won’t confirm exactly how many people the force is down but the union said on Monday they expected it 1,700 firefighters going on unpaid leave.
Another firefighter out of Engine 79 in the Bronx said staffing had been reduced ‘dramatically’.
Around 40 firefighters gathered at the meeting in Manhattan on Tuesday. Some had been sent home from firehouses the previous day because they were unvaccinated
A firefighter takes a form for request for a reasonable accommodation for disability’ after being forbidden from working because is unvaccinated at a union meeting for firefighters on Tuesday
The firefighters say they are not being allowed to work by the City which has no right to tell them which vaccines to take
(L-R seated) Lt. James McCarthy, President of the FDNY-Uniformed Fire Officers Association, Edward Kelly, IAFF President, Andy Ansbro, President of the Uniformed Firefighters Association on Tuesday morning
A four alarm fire in the Bronx last night required 163 firefighters. Engine 81, the nearest firehouse, was closed earlier in the day due to staffing shortages but was back in service by the time the fire hit. The firefighters who are working say they are overstretched to dangerous limits
Two firefighters out of Engine 58 in Harlem who were sent home on Tuesday after showing up for duty without being vaccinated
It is unclear how many of the firefighters who walked out on Monday (pictured) will lose their jobs, and how many will find a way around the rules
‘We were already understaffed. One month ago we had record highs in OT that the FDNY increased the maximum hours you can work.
‘Now, being forced to work even more than contractually required to work.
Daniel Nigro, the fire commissioner, said 18 of the departments’ 350 companies, or five per cent, were out of service on Monday. The Uniformed Firefighter’s Association tweeted a photo of a protest sign and unused uniform on Monday
‘Even 24 hour restrictions went by the wayside,’ one firefighter in the Bronx told DailyMail.com.
‘I can’t fathom how the City could gamble with lives so carelessly when vaccination levels are now at levels initially promoted by prominent healthcare officials to achieve herd immunity (and that isn’t even accounting for the prior exposure and antibody levels in unvaccinated firefighters),’ he said.
Edward Kelly, President of the International Association of Fire Fighters, said: ‘Firefighters are beat up.
‘They’re working non-stop. They’re not being allowed to go home. People are going to break down.
‘We’re worried about tragedy happening in New York City.
‘It could be a citizen, it could be one of our own. But we want everyone to know it’s not us creating this.’
They want to bring back the option for firefighters to either be vaccinated or have to test weekly for COVID.
A four-alarm fire tore through a Chinese restaurant in the Bronx overnight, requiring 163 firefighters to respond from nearby companies including one that was so understaffed as a result of the vaccine mandate that it had to close.
A two-alarm fire in Brooklyn required 100 firefighters’ attention at 6pm last night. Four people were taken to the hospital with injuries.
An FDNY spokesman told DailyMail.com that no one died and no one was seriously injured.
The unions on Tuesday slammed the claim that 2,300 firefighters were lying to claim sick pay when they were unvaccinated, calling it offensive to 9/11 survivors and others who suffer real injuries in the line of fire.
‘We have firefighters that put their lives on the line that are battling cancers, some WTC-related.
‘We also have some operating at a fourth alarm fire in the Bronx.
‘We have a very dangerous job, firefighters get hurt in the line of duty… the assertion that thousands are faking medical leave, we reject,’ Ansbro, President of the UFA, said.
Around 2,300 firefighters were off work on Monday, as a rule enforcing COVID vaccination. Monday’s deadline applied to all municipal workers, ranging from police officers to parks employees. Twelve firefighters from Ladder 29 in Mott Haven, in the Bronx, were sent home on Monday after reporting for duty unvaccinated