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Union: Brooklyn Death, Injuries 'Directly Attributable' To Bloomberg FDNY Staffing Cuts

NEW YORK (1010 WINS/AP) -- As the investigation into what caused the deadly five-alarm apartment building fire in Brooklyn continues, fire department union leaders blamed recent staff reductions for the amount of time it took to fight Saturday night's blaze.

Uniformed Firefighters Association President Steve Cassidy told 1010 WINS on Sunday that the hundreds left homeless after the Flatbush fire along with injured firefighters and the death of 64-year-old Mary Feagin was "directly attributable to staffing cuts at the FDNY by [Mayor] Mike Bloomberg."

About 200 firefighters were called to the gusty scene and it took them seven hours to extinguish the fire.

Under a now-expired agreement, 60 engine companies in the busiest city areas had five-person crews. Currently, all engine companies in the city are staffed with four-person crews. City officials, including Mayor Bloomberg, had argued that the cuts were necessary to prevent the closing of firehouses.

In late January, Cassidy had argued that the staff reductions would result in "more injuries for firefighters, more injuries and/or deaths for civilians."

Cassidy claims that because the first unit to arrive on the scene Saturday had one less firefighter, "it took [the crew] five minutes longer to get water on the fire."

"You don't have to be a rocket scientist to figure out allowing a fire to grow exponentially every two minutes, what's going to happen at five minutes?"

It is not the first incident following the expiration of the previous agreement that Cassidy has drawn such links between the cuts and outcome of a fire.

On February 11 after one woman was killed and another was critically injured at 1142 Lenox Road, Cassidy said the fire was a "byproduct" of the staff reductions.

Firefighters on the scene Saturday blamed the wind for much of the difficulty in battling the blaze.

"This was bad because of the wind," Fire Chief Edward Kilduff told the Daily News. "We had to evacuate very quickly because basically the fire chased us right down the hall and down the stairs."

The FDNY released a statement in response to the UFA.  The statement said that units "never had a chance to extinguish the fire" because the door to the apartment was left open and "extreme winds" allowed the flames to "spread out of the apartment and throughout the fourth floor."

"Contrary to the UFA's statement, it was the open door problem - greatly exacerbated by severe winds - that fueled this fire into an unstoppable conflagration, despite the efforts of more than 200 firefighters who battled it for more than nine hours," the statement read.

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(TM and Copyright 2011 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2011 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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