By Jake Lapin, SYRACUSE, N.Y. (NCC News) – The Syracuse Fire Department gathers as a whole every Feb. 3 to memorialize the 45 firefighters who have fallen in the line of duty.
Feb. 3 marked the 78th anniversary of the Collins Block Fire, the deadliest fire in the city’s history as nine firemen perished in the collapsed building on East Genesee back in 1939.
“11 out of the 45 that passed away, or were killed in the line of duty, perished in the line of duty during my term as a Syracuse firefighter,” said Tom Laun, a retired Deputy Chief who worked in the department for nearly 36 years.
“My first year on the job, working engine 12, I was involved in a fire on Lincoln Avenue,” Laun said. “I remember seeing him with his rubber coat on a stretcher and they took him away and it stays with you forever. I was only on the fire department for 6 months at the time and it brought home that this was serious business.”
On Jan. 24, a snow plow burst into flames and pulled into Fire Station No. 6.
However, the station was unequipped to put out the fire due to Mayor Stephanie Miner’s budget cuts in 2013.
“The mayor had to cut a million-five, and there are a couple of ways to do that,” said Paul Cousins, the current Deputy Chief of Fire. “Laying people off wasn’t the option, so we had to cut a couple of engines and reorganize.”
Station No. 6 used to have an engine, but due to budget cuts, the department reorganized their facilities and Station No. 6 became a rescue station without a truck.
“If it had the engine 6 that was originally assigned there, there’s a pretty good chance they would have been in quarters and been able to deal with it,” Laun said.
There hasn’t been a death in the department in the line of duty since 1999. Laun attributes a little bit of that to luck, and a lot to better training.
The department trains new recruits every week.
The trainees must go through several classes of EMS training, CPR, and more in addition to fire rescue.
As Cousins puts it, the name Fire Department is a bit misleading, as the department answer calls to every type of emergency outside of crime.
Whatever you want to call it, every firefighter in the department will be at Fayette Park come next Feb. 3.