Time to re-evaluate vacant building fires
Fires at large vacant buildings are killers.
These blazes cause more firefighter injuries than in any other property classification and they can kill the fabric of our neighborhoods.
Vacant building fires are often incendiary or suspicious. These structures are targets for kids, vandals, drug-users and the homeless.
Abandoned large buildings put firefighters at extra risk. Stripped of wiring, pipes and other components for scrap, they often contain open shafts or pits, becoming mantraps or allowing fires to spread rapidly.
On April 9, 2012, at 3:13 a.m., a fire broke out in an abandoned, six-story hosiery warehouse at York and Jasper streets. The warehouse covered more than half a block. The Philadelphia Fire Department pulled five alarms and the fire was placed under control after a little more than two hours. Sadly, Lt. Robert Neary and Firefighter Daniel Sweeney, both of the Fire Department’s Ladder 10 station, died when a wall collapsed and buried them while battling the blaze. Two other firefighters survived, but were injured in the collapse.
The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health recently released an investigative report into the blaze that found eight contributing factors to the deaths of Lt. Neary and Firefighter Sweeney.
I’ve introduced an ordinance that will take steps to reduce firefighter, other first responder and community risks as cited by NIOSH. I seek to amend The Philadelphia Fire Code, by providing requirements to create a vacant property task force charged with compiling an inventory and database of such properties. It also calls for an inspection team with specific responsibilities when evaluating abandoned and vacant buildings, structures and premises.
I believe this ordinance is a sorely needed and proactive step in the right direction.
Dennis M. O’Brien