Human Ecology

, Volume 9, Issue 4, pp 433-464

First online:

Fire service productivity and the New York City fire crisis: 1968–1979

  • Rodrick WallaceAffiliated withPublic Interest Scientific Consulting Service, Inc.

Rent the article at a discount

Rent now

* Final gross prices may vary according to local VAT.

Get Access


Empirical measures of fire-service quality and efficiency are examined for New York City in the period 1968–1979. Marked decreases in the ability to control and contain structural fires are found to result from a program of fire-service reductions begun in 1972. Exacerbated by the New York City “fiscal crisis” of 1975, decreases in fire-service efficiency since 1972 appear to have initiated a geographically spreading and apparently recurrent fire epidemic. The decreases have accelerated since 1976, implying that recurring epidemic episodes could be more severe than the 1974–1977 crisis, which destroyed large areas in some neighborhoods of the city, including the South Bronx, Bushwick, Brownsville, East New York, East Harlem, and others. The results of an extensive data analysis are contrasted with the methods and conclusions of a widely circulated study entitled Setting Municipal Priorities 1981.

Key words

fire epidemic South Bronx fire-service efficiency