LOCKPORT – A City of Lockport resident who is also a member of a volunteer fire company said Friday he suspects a city firefighter drove a spike into the tire of his wife’s car early Thursday after they had a dispute with the president of the fire union over a yard sign.
“I was kind of surprised they’d resort to that level of thuggery,” said Donald Enzinna, of Harding Avenue and a member of the South Lockport Fire Company.
Kevin W. Pratt, president of the Lockport Professional Fire Fighters Association, firmly denied that he or any of his members had anything to do with the vandalism, but he did admit trying to get Enzinna to surrender the sign.
Pratt said, “I have no doubts it was none of my people.”
“Support Lockport Firefighters” signs have become fairly common on Lockport lawns in the past year or so, as the union’s perennial contract dispute with the city has become more intense as the financially strapped city laid off firefighters, privatized the city ambulance service and reduced the minimum number of firefighters on each shift in an attempt to save money on overtime.
Enzinna modified one of the signs to read, “Support Lockport Taxpayers.”
Enzinna said he will take the sign down at the recommendation of the president of the South Lockport company. Enzinna said relations between the city’s professional firefighters and the town-based volunteers have soured in recent months.
“I’ve made my point,” Enzinna said. A candidate for Conservative Party committeeman in Thursday’s primary, Enzinna asserted, “There’s nobody looking out for the taxpayers’ interests.”
He said the vandalism, which occurred in his driveway about 3:30 a.m. Thursday, was caught on a security camera, but not conclusively so. “You can see motion but you can’t identify the person. I’ll have to upgrade the cameras, I guess,” Enzinna said. He gave the video to the Lockport Police Department.
Pratt said, “It certainly wasn’t me. I’m in bed at 3:30 in the morning.”
He said the sign was union property and meant to be given to union supporters, and suggested that Enzinna make his own sign.
Enzinna said, “I found it in the gutter on Juniper Street under some snow and dirt.” He said that happened in March, but he didn’t post the revised sign until May.
The roots of the incident go back to last Thanksgiving, when Enzinna’s father-in-law suffered a stroke in Enzinna’s home. Twin City Ambulance, which now handles Lockport rescue calls, was dispatched, but firefighters have been going to rescue calls since the privatization, and Enzinna didn’t like “the language they used. When you come to my house and act like a couple of doofuses … They had to roll an engine and two firefighters to an ambulance call. It was just free advertising, is what we thought.”
He said his wife, Cindra, then suggested that they should change a “Support Lockport Firefighters” sign to “Support Lockport Taxpayers.” Enzinna said he remembered that when he saw the discarded sign.
Pratt said he went to Enzinna’s house Wednesday afternoon and talked to Cindra. She told him to come back when her husband was home, and Pratt did so Wednesday evening.
“It was not a confrontational-type conversation,” Pratt said. “I explained that my members had paid for those signs and given them to our supporters.” He asked for the sign, and Enzinna refused.
Enzinna said Pratt was cordial. But he said Pratt took a picture of the sign before he left. Within hours, his wife’s tire had a slow leak.
“I’m not saying he did it, but maybe he showed the photo to someone else and they became unhinged,” Enzinna said. “I never had a problem, never had a flat tire. It could be a strange coincidence.”
Enzinna said he believes the city some day may have a hybrid fire force of professionals and volunteers, which is something the union has strongly opposed.
Enzinna said, “The union’s done a great job of public relations. The people seem to think, ‘We don’t want a bunch of volunteers. Our houses will burn and we’re all going to die.’ That’s overblown.”