2002 Newsday, Inc.
Newsday (New York, NY). . . 1/26/2002
David Arce of Engine 33 was one. Michael Boyle, his friend and colleague,
was another. Dennis Carey of HazMat 1 was a third. Each firefighter
was off-duty when the attack on the Twin Towers took place, rushed
to the scene to help in the massive rescue operation, and lost his
In all, 60 of the 343 firefighters lost on Sept. 11 had been off-duty
when they responded, Fire Department spokesman Frank Gribbon told
That number alone illustrates the courage of the day. "The
people that came in off-duty, their actions were heroic," said
Peter Gorman, president of the Uniformed Fire Officers Association.
"The entire department responded." But the figure also
has raised policy questions and delicate emotional issues within
the FDNY. "When we finally reach a point where the healing
process is starting, that starts the dialogue about a lot of these
extremely important questions," said an official of another
On Tuesday, Deputy Chief Charles Blaich said commanders "lost
track" of who was in the building during the response. "They
were trying to do something worthwhile," he said. "There
has to be a level somewhere saying, 'That's wonderful, now get out
of here.' There has to be someone to make that hard call."
As another chief, who didn't want to be identified, put it Friday:
"If the worst case scenario occurs, if God forbid, there is
another terrorist attack, the response would have to be limited
in some way," he said. "It's my sense that the department
will come down with something more restrictive.
"The scene is very difficult to control when you have lots
of people showing up," he said. "We have to have command
and control. We have to know who is in there."
Department policy prevents off-duty firefighters from "riding
along" to fires. In more routine situations, off-duty firefighters
who do show up at the scene are not allowed to directly participate.
The large number of off-duty firefighters who responded to the scene
before the collapses was caused by a confluence of several factors:
The planes struck at a moment that firefighters across the city
were changing tours that morning. A large number of off-duty firefighters
were still at their stations. Many of those who just finished their
tours went to the scene with their units.
Once they learned of the attack, many off-duty firefighters went
to the scene on their own, after stopping at the nearest firehouse
to don protective gear. Before the collapses, the department issued
a special "recall" order, directing all off-duty firefighters
to report for duty to the nearest firehouse. The Fire Department
is performing an ongoing review of the Sept. 11 response and may
bring in outside consultants to assist.
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