In a highly unusual move, three ranking New York Fire Department officials were yanked from their posts Monday after the mayor and fire commissioner said they appear to be responsible for information lapses that led to the deaths of two firefighters at the former Deutsche Bank building.
Lack of plan cited in Ground Zero fire
Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Fire Commissioner Nicholas Scoppetta, at a City Hall news conference, announced both the officials' reassignments and a preliminary cause of the Aug. 18 blaze in the building: careless smoking by workers on the 17th floor.
"Smoking was prohibited in the building," Scoppetta said. "Nevertheless, smoking was engaged in throughout the building, and particularly on the 17th floor where the fire originated."
Mayor: Workers' Careless Smoking Caused WTC Tower Blaze
"We will hold everyone accountable, no matter where this investigation takes us,'' Scoppetta said.
Bloomberg on Monday said he had ordered the city's Department of Environmental Protection to devise a procedure for notifying the Fire Department when decontaminations are taking place that could affect fire response.
He said the city was also investigating whether the Department of Buildings bore responsibility in the inspections failures.
Inspections Criticized Again, 20 Years After 7 Deaths
Records from the city’s Department of Buildings show the challenge for any inspection system in New York: The city has more than 14,000 buildings that are more seven stories tall; last year the Building Department issued 3,653 demolition permits and 84,391 permits for new construction or major alterations to existing buildings. Buildings are inspected depending on size and use. High-hazard structures, like hospitals, are inspected every year, and the lowest-hazard multifamily buildings are inspected every five years. Single-family homes are not inspected by the Fire Department.
One fire officer, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to comment on the situation, said the job could be overwhelming for fire companies in busy areas.
“There is a hole in the system,” the officer said. “We can’t possibly cover all the buildings in detail, and cover all the buildings that we are allotted.”
Hmmm... sounds like closing the firehouses and not hiring enough firefighters was not such a smart idea. Oh well, as long as it saves a few bucks.
Photo from Newsday