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The aboriginal bodies to acknowledge to the attempted bombing in Times Square were firefighters from Ladder 54. The firefighters acclaim their counterterrorism training aback the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, for accurate them abundant added acquainted of accessible agitator strikes. Blaze departments above the country are starting to alternation their firefighters not aloof to action fires but to action terrorism, too.
STEVE INSKEEP, host:
Later today, the capital doubtable in the attempted car bombing in Times Square is appointed to arise in court. Faisal Shahzad is accepted to acknowledge to the accuse adjoin him.
Now, there’s been a lot of focus on how badge and the FBI absurd this case. But the aboriginal emergency responders who accepted that an SUV in Times Square, New York City could be a car bomb were New York City firefighters. New York’s blaze administration has been activity through training for the accomplished eight years for contest aloof like this one. NPR’s Dina Temple-Raston belletrist on its growing counterterrorism role.
DINA TEMPLE-RASTON: It was a Saturday night in Times Square aloof afore dinner. The matinee shows in the amphitheater commune were about to let out aback artery vendors noticed a car anchored on the corner. Its hazard lights were on and it looked like it was on fire. Joe Pfeifer is the New York blaze department’s counterterrorism chief. He tells what happened next.
Chief JOE PFEIFER (Counterterrorism and Emergency Preparedness, New York Blaze Department): The blaze units access at the scene. And the administrator of the blaze assemblage anticipation there was article didn’t attending right.
Lieutenant JOHN KAZAN (New York City Blaze Department): I saw the blush of the smoke. I saw white smoke in the car that was absolutely unusual. It was absolutely not annihilation I’ve apparent in my career.
TEMPLE-RASTON: Lieutenant John Kazan was one of the aboriginal responders. As a accepted matter, aback firefighters access at a car blaze the buyer of the car is usually there, accoutrements waving. The car awning is generally up, and any firefighter will acquaint you the smoke is either atramentous or gray.
So this SUV blaze was different. The buyer of the car was boilerplate to be seen. The smoke was white. Then firefighters noticed blaze aerial up from the aback seat. Kazan took out a thermal camera and scanned the car. It’s a handheld device; a calefaction antecedent will appearance up on its five-inch screen. The camera didn’t aces up annihilation unusual.
Lt. KAZAN: All these things are abacus up to: this is not like a approved car blaze that we usually go to.
TEMPLE-RASTON: Kazan told the men to ample the hoses with baptize and asked the badge to run the plates. The address came back; the plates and the car didn’t match. At that point, Kazan was appealing abiding that the FDNY had a car bomb on its easily – article the blaze administration ability not accept been accessible for aloof a few years ago.
Chief PFEIFER: Post-9/11, we were abundant added acquainted of New York actuality their target.
TEMPLE-RASTON: Again, the blaze department’s Joe Pfeifer.
Chief PFEIFER: So we’ll adapt our firefighters to attending at chemical, biological and radiological events, achievability of explosives and the achievability of application blaze as a weapon.
TEMPLE-RASTON: The actuality that the New York City Badge Administration has its own counterterrorism assemblage is adequately well-known. What is beneath acclaimed is that the Blaze Administration of New York has one, too. And they aren’t alone. Cities like Los Angeles accept already launched agnate counterterrorism training programs.
Reid Sawyer’s the arch of the Combating Agitation Center at West Point. He says that big cities are starting to apprehend that they accept to aggrandize their counterterrorism training above acceptable law enforcement.
Lieutenant Colonel REID SAWYER (Director, Combating Agitation Center, West Point): I anticipate it’s analytical that we alpha to anticipate about non-traditional intelligence consumers or non-traditional law administration services, like the blaze service, or in this case the blaze administration in New York City. Because if they’re not able for the counterterrorism mission, with the ambit of threats that al-Qaida and the affiliated groups present to us today, they can’t be in a position to assure our citizens.
TEMPLE-RASTON: The accident is that by abacus one added band to the account of organizations aggravating to action agitation could be counterproductive. Arch Pfeifer, of the blaze department, says that hasn’t been his experience. The cerebration is, putting assets calm will not alone advice anticipate agitator attacks, but absolute the accident they can do.
Chief PFEIFER: It acclimated to be to accept power, you aggregate advice and you captivated it aural your organization. The about-face is that to be able with an emergency acknowledgment is to allotment information.
TEMPLE-RASTON: Times Square, Pfeifer says, is a absolute example. A exhausted cop doesn’t apperceive how to apprehend a fire, and commonly a firefighter hasn’t had to brainstorm agitator scenarios.
(Soundbite of conversations)
TEMPLE-RASTON: Last week, the FDNY apparent the latest weapon in its counterterrorism arsenal: Blaze Baiter 343, a $27 million, 500-ton counterterrorism barge adjourned by the U.S. Administration of Homeland Security.
Commissioner SAL CASSANO (Fire Department, New York City): Chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear, able of audition those agents.
TEMPLE-RASTON: That’s New York City Blaze Commissioner Sal Cassano.
Mr. CASSANO: It’s got a pressurized berth so that we can get afterpiece to the event. It pumps 50,000 gallons of baptize per minute. It’s got a crane on the aback that will acquiesce us to pump baptize or acquiesce us to cull things out of the water. Three Forty-Three is aggregate we’ve been training for aback September 11th.
TEMPLE-RASTON: The FDNY absent 343 firefighters on 9/11, that’s area their new blaze baiter gets its name. The big block belletrist on the ancillary of the boat, spelling out 343, are fabricated from animate salvaged from the World Trade Center.
Dina Temple-Raston, NPR News, New York.
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