Amid Rise in Fires, Brooklyn Appeals for Its Own Burn Unit


In the aftermath of a historically high incidence of fires in Brooklyn, the borough’s entire political leadership appealed Tuesday to the mayor to fund a burn unit within its borders.

Borough President Eric Adams and Brooklyn’s entire City Council delegation joined in calling on Mayor Bill de Blasio to allocate $10 million in the upcoming budget to complete the creation of Brooklyn’s first burn unit.

“If Brooklyn were an independent city, it would be the fourth-largest city in the United States… Yet, in a borough of 2.6 million people, there are no burn centers within its borders,” the officials wrote in a letter to de Blasio. “As a point of comparison, Chicago — a city with a population roughly equivalent to that of Brooklyn — has two burn centers.”

A burn center provides all phases of healthcare for burns, including treatment of wounds and surgery, rehabilitation services and reconstructive surgery. They treat a variety of burn types, such as the thermal burns sustained in a fire, chemical burns caused by common household cleaners and swimming pool chemicals, scald burns produced by hot liquids, as well as electrical burns that can also cause internal damage.

Currently, burn victims in New York City are either sent to Columbia-Presbyterian Hospital in Manhattan, Jacobi Hospital in the Bronx, and Staten Island University Hospital North.

This renewed push comes amid a rise in local fires. Last year, the city’s fire department responded to 8,206 structural fires and 4,974 non-structural fires in Brooklyn, an increase of nearly two percent and 6.5 percent over 2016, respectively.

Civilian fatalities across the city were at 73 last year, the highest since 2008 and up sharply from the 48 fire deaths in 2016. The worst in Brooklyn was the Azan family tragedy, in which a mother and three of her children perished in flames on Chanukah.

Cost estimates for the first year of operation for a new eight-bed burn unit are $14.5 million. Adams says he committed $4.15 million from his budget and he wants the city to take up the rest.

“The deaths of the Azan family in Sheepshead Bay have reignited my determination to bring our borough its first burn unit,” Adams said in a statement, “just as the deaths of the Sassoon family in Midwood first sparked my call three years ago.”