Medford ladder truck missed 10 calls while hanging city's holiday decorations

MEDFORD, Mass. — Some Medford firefighters are upset after their ladder truck was pulled out of service for hours to put up the city's holiday decorations.

Medford Firefighter Eddie Buckley says he's shocked because the town is already down ladder trucks. One of them is out of service for repair so Boston Fire is loaning them one, leaving Medford with just one working ladder truck of its own.

"The truck was put out of service for about four hours to help put up the lights," said Buckley.

But even worse, while that was happening Buckley says the ladder truck missed calls that it should have been first to respond to. The city told Boston 25 News there were eight medical calls and two accidents the ladder truck wasn't able to respond to, forcing stations from farther away to pick up the calls.

"That half of the city isn't covered by the ladder truck. So it delays a ladder truck response. If it's a car accident or a fire... it delays the response," said Buckley.

The state fire union blasted the city for doing it, telling Boston 25 News, "In a fire, seconds not minutes matter, and by taking a fire truck off duty to hang holiday lights, the city is putting everyone in danger."

Boston 25 News asked the mayor's office why it pulled the truck and crew out of service and what's the plan to replace the ladder trucks already down. The mayor told us, "I don't believe we put everyone in danger. We ask for assistance every year. We are one city and the fire chief made the call."

Firefighters like Buckley worry it's the wrong call and will happen again.

"If you're concerned like I am, call the mayor's office because this needs to be addressed," he said.

And if the fire department is asked to take down the decorations and again take a truck out of service, some firefighters here told us they may refuse and if so they could face suspension.

UPDATE: After our story aired Thursday evening, Mayor Burke's Office sent Boston 25 News an updated statement, reading:

"The recent media reports regarding the use of a ladder truck to put up holiday decorations in the City of Medford contain misleading and one-sided conclusions that require a response.
It is imperative that the public be aware that during the brief time when Ladder 1 was used to assist in the hanging of decorations, all calls were promptly answered by other City department fire apparatus and among them responding was Ladder 2. There were six available fire apparatus and Armstrong Ambulance within our City. At no time did a call go unanswered! 
The use of a ladder truck to assist with holiday decorations has been a regular occurrence for many years.

Medford Fire Chief Frank Giliberti stated, "I have been Fire Chief for more than 20 years. Each city department helps the other. The Fire Department regularly receives the help of other city departments and we respond in kind. I do not agree with the statement that the City was in imminent danger at any time when Ladder 1 was assisting with holiday decorations. In every city or town apparatus such as engines and ladders go out of service at various times for various reasons. I consider the members of my department to be on par with the best in the Commonwealth. They do an outstanding job day in and day out and they did on that day."
The equipment needs of the Fire Department are continually addressed. For example, within the next few weeks the City will be putting into service 2 new pumpers, built according to specifications set by the Fire Chief, at a cost of $670,000.00 each.
The safety of our residents and employees is our first priority. As Mayor, I am an advocate for public safety to protect the life and property of every citizen," said Mayor Stephanie M. Burke. "We will continue to support our departments through civic and community events, while keeping residents safe."