Buffalo Common Council talks to fire department on ways to improve after deadly blizzard

BUFFALO N.Y. (WIVB) — City leaders are calling for better planning in the wake of the Buffalo Blizzard, that claimed the lives of more than 40 people.

The Buffalo Common Council met Tuesday to talk about how the city can be better prepared for the next winter storm. The meeting focused heavily on the Buffalo Fire Department’s response. Fire commissioner William Renaldo, members of the buffalo Fire Department and their union rep were in attendance.

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Renaldo says the department responded to around a dozen fire calls during the blizzard. He says the equipment isn’t what hindered efforts to respond to calls, the weather conditions and stranded cars on the roads were.

Buffalo firefighters union president Vinny Ventresca disagrees, saying they need to update equipment and there needed to be a better plan in place.

“We did not receive the proper training or equipment to operate during critical storms like the one we just experienced,” he said. “There is a desperate need for a strategic comprehensive plan to modernize our frontline apparatuses and plan to replace outdated apparatuses on a regular basis.”

Renaldo says that during the blizzard around 70 residents stayed at fire stations across Buffalo. These were people who were stranded outside or in their cars, and needed somewhere warm to stay.

Common council member Chris Scanlon brought up concerns about the fire department not being prepared to shelter all those people. He said he heard from fire fighters who told him they didn’t have enough food or resources.

Renaldo says it did take time to gather those resources, and they’re looking into fixing that.

“It did take a while, but efforts from the national guards, sheriff’s department and that logistical chain, we were able to get not only food but blankets, and cots and things of that nature, to the fire houses to the warming shelters,” he said. “It did take some time, and I know we can do a better job, and that’s one of the things we’re looking at next time to be better prepared in that area.”

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Councilmembers are pushing for the city to create an emergency management coordinator position. That person would oversee the city’s emergency preparedness, response and recovery plans.

“We’re not pointing fingers at anybody. We’re saying what can we do collectively to be able to respond to disasters and blizzards and hurricanes and floods, terrorism. Whatever disaster it is, we’re in the position to respond to it,” common council member David Rivera said.

Sarah Minkewicz is an Emmy-nominated reporter and Buffalo native who has been a part of the News 4 team since 2019. Follow Sarah on Twitter @SarahMinkewicz and click here to see more of her work.

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