The New York City Fire Department is facing scrutiny after surveillance footage showed firefighters leaving three Black burn victims unattended during a rescue last month.
On July 22, the department responded to calls about a fire at an apartment building in Crown Heights, Brooklyn, at 6:52 a.m. Footage shows more than a dozen firefighters entering and exiting the building as they rescued three victims.
Joshua Scurry, 25, his mother Tawanna Scurry, 53, along with his girlfriend Tiffany Jemmott, were each dragged out down to the apartment lobby at around a few minutes after 7 a.m.
Tawanna Scurry was brought out first and laid on the wet floor of the apartment lobby. After Joshua Scurry was brought down the stairs,Jemmott was laid on the floor near Tawanna Scurry. The firefighters are seen stepping over the burn victims while handling hoses.
Minutes passed without any of the victims receiving medical attention, until Tawanna Scurry was placed on a stretcher and carried out of the apartment building. Four minutes went by between the time of the ambulance’s arrival and the point at which she was brought out on a stretcher.
Next, Jemmott was also taken out of the apartment by medical personnel. A month after the fire, 53-year old Tawanna Scurry remains in an intensive care unit at a New York hospital.
Both her son and Jemmott have been discharged after being treated for severe burns each suffered.
“They should have at least gotten all of us a stretcher. They had our bare bodies laying on the floor,” Joshua said to the New York Daily News.
Some former New York firefighters have also criticized the firefighters involved in the rescue for not acting fast enough. “It’s a medical emergency – every second counts,” one retired firefighter told the paper. The former firefighter added that the victims should have been brought to the medical responders immediately, saying, “They should have been ready to carry them outside.”
Khalid Baylor, president of the Vulcan Society, an association of Black firefighters, responded to the footage of the rescue, saying, “The people who are supposed to save lives are treating these black lives as if they don’t matter, dragging and dropping them.”
However, the department has defended the officers’ actions. “The firefighters did go get the equipment, they did take care of them, and as a result, all three of those folks are alive,” said Chief of Operations Thomas Richardson.
He said that although the video “may not look good,” the responders did the right thing by bringing the victims to a safe place. The department believes the fire was caused by defective electrical wiring.