BUFFALO, NY - Buffalo's fire commissioner is out of commission - and city leaders say there are a number of reasons to be concerned.
We're told Buffalo has been without a fire commissioner for about six weeks now, and he will be out for an undetermined amount of time.
While we have just confirmed this, Common Council members are concerned, because they tell us they found out about it two weeks ago.
We're told Fire Commissioner Vincent Muscarella is not at his post because he was "injured on duty."
But the City of Buffalo would release few other details.
The common council found out about Muscarella at a budget meeting, when another city official appeared, instead of the fire commissioner, to present the details of the fire department's budget.
And council members were concerned knowing that there is no deputy commissioner who can take over temporarily.
"I'm just concerned when there's not leadership there. The deputy went back to the line?" asked Kevin Helfer, representing the Fire Department at the meeting on May 3.
"That is correct and the administration is searching for deputy commissioners and we're searching as we speak," replied Rasheed Wyatt, a common council member of the University District.
"Ok, because I know I had a really good conversation with Commissioner Muscarella about some things that he was looking to do and you know, without that leadership there, I'm just concerned, are those things still going to go through," continued Helfer.
"I can assure you that this budget was developed with an awful lot of input from both Commissioner Muscarella and Deputy Commissioner Eaton," Wyatt said.
When we asked why news outlets were not notified about Muscarella being injured on duty, we were told by the City Spokesperson that it was a personnel matter, and that the council was briefed about it a number of times by the administration.
The deputy commissioner position is vacant because, the day before that budget hearing on May 3, Jonathan Eaton voluntarily decided to step down and assume the rank of captain - which is eligible for overtime.
So that leaves the five division chiefs running the day-to-day operations of the fire department.
Common Council President Darius Pridgen said the council will monitor the situation, but so far, there is no evidence that response times have been impacted.
"It has not put life in jeopardy," Pridgen said. "But every organization wants a leader. Let me be clear: We need a leader in place."
A few council members expressed concern that unchecked overtime could become an issue.
Muscarella has been Commissioner for just about 4 months.
We're told there are no intentions by the city administration to replace him, contrary to rumor.