Fire Union President Calls on FDNY to Reissue Personal Safety Ropes

NEW YORK (AP) -- A week after three firefighters died - two of them when they were forced to jump from a fourth-floor window of a burning building - the president of the Uniformed Fire Officers Association on Sunday urged the fire department to issue personal safety ropes and harnesses to all firefighters.

``Had these firefighters had the ropes with them, the outcome might have been different,'' Peter Gorman said by telephone before holding a press conference on the issue.

The Fire Department of New York took the ropes out of service in 2000. It said Sunday it hoped to re-equip firefighters with them following a review, and it invited unions to offer input.

``The department is committed to providing ropes that are both strong and lightweight, not burdensome or inconvenient for firefighters to carry, and that would be integrated with their gear in such a way so as not to interfere with routine operations,'' it said in a statement.

The department has said it stopped using the ropes for several reasons, including their weight, bulkiness and maintenance requirements.

Gorman, the union president, said the ropes were recalled when their safety certification date expired but the department didn't look into newer technology.

``It was about money and nothing but money at the time,'' he said.

The union provided a copy of a May 25, 2000, letter in which Gorman and Kevin Gallagher, then president of the Uniformed Firefighters Association, protested the recall of the ropes.

``The removal of this personal safety escape system will endanger the lives of firefighters and fire officers,'' said the letter, which was addressed to Daniel Nigro, chief of operations for the fire department.

Lt. Curtis Meyran and Firefighter John Bellew died Jan. 23 after jumping from the Bronx building. Firefighter Richard Sclafani was killed hours later while searching for stranded occupants inside a burning home in Brooklyn.

The three deaths marked the fire department's worst one-day loss since 343 firefighters perished in the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attack on the World Trade Center.

The three firefighters were buried Thursday, Friday and Saturday.

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