Thursday, February 6, 2014

Denny O'Brien: Time to Re-eval­u­ate Va­cant Build­ing Fires

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

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