Almost six years after 9/11, the deaths of two firefighters at the former Deutsche Bank building raise troubling questions about oversight and safety at Ground Zero. Glenn Corbett, a professor of fire science at John Jay College and technical adviser to the Skyscraper Safety Campaign, said the following questions must be answered before the investigation is over:
1) How is that two firefighters are dead because a standpipe wasn’t working or wasn’t installed properly in a skyscraper that was being demolished? How could that come to be?
2) How come the fuel load in the building was so big? “There was all of this plywood and apparently, polyurethane kept in the building—that increased the fuel load and caused the fire to spread,” Corbett said. Why didn’t they use sheet metal or gypsum board? They are more expensive than plywood, but not combustible, Corbett said.
3) How is that downtown residents had raised questions about fire safety and toxicity at the former Deutsche Bank building for years, yet there was no comprehensive fire prevention or fire safety plan in place despite all the assurances from officials?
4) Had the Fire Department done inspections there before the fire? Had they done a pre-plan of the site, meaning had they walked through the building and looked at any changes that were made?
5) Were there any fire watches—guards whose sole job is it to look out for fires—assigned to the Deutsche Bank building? If so, did they spot the fire. “It makes sense to have fire watches on a demolition site like this. Lots of torches are being used to cut down the steel, so there are lot of fires. It’s fairly commonplace,” Corbett said. Did they hire a fire protection consultant?
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on August 20, 2007