Woman, 87, Dies during Queens Home Fire; FDNY Response Criticized

February 27, 2008

An 87-year-old woman died Monday in a New York home fire, and a firefighters’ union official criticized the fire department for initially dispatching only one truck to the building after the alarm sounded.

Two firefighters suffered minor injures tackling the Queens blaze, which started about 3 p.m. on the first floor or basement of a two-story residential building, the fire department said. They were treated at a hospital and released.

Uniformed Firefighters Association trustee Stephen Humenesky said two trucks should have been sent to the fire initially because the building’s basement and first-floor windows were covered by anti-burglary bars.

Workers on the trucks are charged with forcible entry, removal of victims and ventilation, and the trucks are equipped with ladders, Humenesky said.

The victim, Emma Calendar, was sitting at a first-floor dining-room table when the blaze broke out, union and fire officials said.
“Only God can tell whether this woman would have lived or died” if two trucks had been dispatched initially, Humenesky said. “The department is playing Russian roulette in the way they’re dispatching units.”

A second truck was sent to the fire three minutes after the first alarm, Humenesky said.

Fire officials “seemed to be violating department policies” by not initially sending two trucks, he said.

The fire department denied that policy was violated and said proper protocol was followed. It said the second truck was sent after a second 911 call was received.

Earlier Monday, the department said more than 100 firefighters were sent to the fire, whose cause was under investigation.
One of the victim’s grandsons said she was healthy, strong, energetic and sometimes stubborn. He said witnesses told him firefighters did all they could to save her.

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