Though many in New York City are upset over recent budget cuts, one individual is being charged with using a potentially dangerous outlet to display his opposition.
Firefighter Nicholas E. Vrettos, of City Island, was arrested for allegedly calling in a false fire alarm on Thursday, December 4, around 11:24 a.m. for P.S. 175, located at 200 City Island Avenue.
The call came from Vrettos’ auto body shop on City Island, went in just after an announcement from Fire Commissioner Nicholas Scoppetta stating the closing of a fire unit on Governor’s Island and nighttime closings of four firehouses throughout the city, including Ladder Co. 53, located on Schofield Street, where Vrettos works.
During nighttime closures, from 6 p.m. to 9 a.m., community residents are assured another unit will be assigned to cover the area. For City Island this will be Engine Co. 70.
The closures were set to begin January 17, and are estimated to save $ 8.9 million annually, but some do not feel the savings is worth the possibility of endangering people’s safety.
“I think its penny wise pound foolish to have that firehouse close, you are putting a value on a person’s life,” said Bill Stanton, president-elect of the City Island Civic Association. “City Island is unique in the Bronx in that we are secluded and I don’t think time and distance was factored into the equation.”
However, the actions of Vrettos are being treated severely for possibly endangering lives through his false alarm, calling in during school hours when students and faculty were present.
“If in fact he is found guilty, in my opinion the end does not justify the means,” said Stanton. “While we all want the same thing here, there is a process. Calling in a false alarm and putting peoples lives in danger is not it and if found guilty he may lose his job.”
In addition to this, numerous other false alarms were reported around the same time, and may also be connected to Vrettos, or lead to further arrests, according to the investigation.
The New York City Department of Investigation began looking into the matter after a firefighter was found linked to the phone call.
“Calling in a false alarm to 911 is no way to protest a budget cut that prompted a partial closure,” said DOI Commissioner, Rose Gill Hearn. “It triggers the FDNY to mobilize vehicles and personnel to a location based on a fictitious emergency. It is inherently dangerous when emergency vehicles go on a run to an emergency, and a fake emergency diverts those vehicles and makes them unavailable to people who need actual assistance.”
“It is especially unforgivable when a member of our own department engages in this criminal activity,” said FDNY Commissioner Nicholas Scoppetta. “Anyone who shows such blatant disregard for our firefighters’ time and the safety of the public should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.”