Philadelphia database proposal to protect firefighters

Click Play for John Rawlins' report
January 30, 2014 2:09:48 PM PST
A fire in Kensington claimed the lives of two firefighters, battling to put it out two years ago, and a new ordinance was introduced today on behalf of the fallen.

Councilman Denny O'Brien said about the raging warehouse fire that killed two veteran firefighters in April 2012.

"The Absence of a comprehensive strategy presents a real clear and present danger that something like this could occur again," O'Brien said.

O'Brien is proposing an ordinance to require the city of Philadelphia maintain a database that would include systematic inspections and floor plans of big, abandoned buildings like the one that burned and collapsed in 2012. The hope is that such a database would give arriving firefighters critical data.

Endorsing the bill today was the widow of Lt. Robert Neary. He died in the 2012 incident.

"I talked to many fireman and their fear was one day they would go into one of these buildings and not come out alive," Neary said.

The Nutter Administration is not commenting on the bill. But officials say they have already identified 25,000 abandoned buildings and the information available on the website of Philadelphia's Licenses and Inspections department.

Perhaps the most surprising revelation today came from the firefighters union, Philadelphia Fire Fighters' and Paramedics Union. It claims that while there was a federal safety probe of the fire, the city of Philadelphia never conducted an internal investigation to see if it could improve training.

"There was never a formal critique at the department level and no information regarding this incident was distributed in field companies in any way," said Joseph Schulle, President Local 22.

The union chief claimed such critiques had been standard operating procedure in the past, but not now.

Philadelphia Fire Commissioner Lloyd Ayers responded to Action News after the report aired during Action News at 4. Ayers said that an investigation was performed by the The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) and the report was issued in November. You can read the report by following this link to the Fire Fighter Fatality Investigation And Prevention Program. Ayers also added that the purpose of the report, completed by federal authorities, is so that a report and investigation is not performed by local authorities.


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