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Staten Island firefighters say they were hurt on the job because of an FDNY policy. Now, they're suing for millions.

Staten Island firefighters suing New York City for millions
Staten Island firefighters suing New York City for millions 02:05

NEW YORK -- Four Staten Island firefighters are suing New York City and the FDNY after they were injured on the job last year

They say staffing shortages led to a delayed response time, increasing the danger they faced. Now, they are each seeking $20 million in damages, for a total of $80 million. 

The firefighters say they nearly lost their lives on Feb. 17, 2023 when they were called to a single-family home on Shotwell Avenue, where heavy winds had spread the flames to neighboring houses.

Their lawsuit alleges the closest firehouse, Ladder Company 167, was closed for annual medical exams, as per FDNY policy. Attorneys for the responding firefighters say this left them short handed and put them in a more dangerous situation.

"In certain fires... it just keeps going bad"

Officials said 22 firefighters were injured that day. Firefighter Lt. Bill Doody told CBS New York he suffered burns to 56 percent of his body

"In certain fires, things tend to follow a domino theory -- when one domino goes, it just keeps going bad. Fortunately, for me, I was able to get out of there. Something that should've been a simple all-hands fire turned into a fourth-alarm, I was trapped," he said. "There were a few seconds when I was laying there. I said, this might be the end." 

The lawsuit calls for a policy change, and the attorneys say an entire firehouse should not be shut down for medical exams or training. Instead, one firefighter from each firehouse could test or train on their days off, or on separate days.

"Multiple times throughout the year for different firehouses, everyone is closed without replacements," attorney Andreas Koutsoudaiks said. "This policy resulted in a ripple effect, which ended with our firefighters running into a raging blaze that didn't have to happen."

The lawsuit alleges "the City of New York failed to provide proper essential safety and adequate firefighting support." 

An FDNY spokesperson said, in part, following this incident the FDNY made changes to protocols including "to dispatch operations to automatically backfill when a fire company is placed out of service. The case is under review." 

"I was lucky. I'm glad to be alive," Doody said. 

Doody was forced to retire early, and hopes in the future no firehouses will be left unstaffed. 

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