Fire marshals concluded that smoking sparked the blaze that killed two firefighters
Photo by Gotham24 via Flickr
Highlights from the mayor’s afternoon press conference on the Deutsche Bank:
1) Smoking was the cause, according to fire marshals. FBI metallurgists are going to test the standpipe to see if they can determine what happened to its missing sections:
“Let’s begin with the fire itself. Fire Marshals have tentatively identified the cause of the fire as careless smoking by workers on the 17th floor. Regarding the standpipe, Fire Marshals have given sections of the standpipe from the basement that were on either side of the missing sections to the FBI for analysis by metallurgists at their lab in Quantico, Virginia. Results are not expected for one to two weeks.
2) The FDNY chiefs on the scene did the best the could with incomplete information. Plus, The fire burned downward as well as upward.
Based on what we currently know, it appears that the Chiefs in command at the scene acted appropriately, considering what they knew at the time. But it’s what they didn’t know that contributed to the enormous difficulties they encountered – specifically, a broken standpipe… a non-functioning sprinkler system… and decontamination efforts which exacerbated the fire and caused unacceptably hazardous conditions. The broken standpipe made it very difficult for firefighters to put water on the fire until they improvised and hoisted hose lines from the street, costing them valuable time. High rise fires almost always burn up, not down, as this one did. We suspect that the effects of the negative air pressure system, put in place as part of the containment operation, pulled the fire down several floors quickly, putting the base of operations on the 14th floor at great risk. And clearly, sealing stairwells gave firefighters few escape routesHigh rise fires almost always burn up, not down, as this one did. We suspect that the effects of the negative air pressure system, put in place as part of the containment operation, pulled the fire down several floors quickly, putting the base of operations on the 14th floor at great risk. And clearly, sealing stairwells gave firefighters few escape routes.
3) The FDNY chiefs on the scene didn’t have complete information because other people in the department had neglected their jobs.
“And this leads us to the toughest questions that we need to answer. Why didn’t the FDNY know about all of the conditions in the building? Why were they going in blind for all intents and purposes? We have identified three main reasons for this – and they are simply not excusable. And for that, we will hold people accountable. First, Engine 10 had responsibility for inspecting the Deutsche Bank building, but stopped inspecting it in 2006. We have yet to determine why inspections abruptly stopped. Second, the Fire Department requires an inspection of the standpipe every 15 days when a building is being demolished. But that hadn’t happened a single time since demolition began in March.
“Third, and finally, despite the hazards concerning this building which have been well publicized and documented, senior fire officers decided against creating a unique fire plan for the building. This is even more disturbing when you take into account that a Battalion Chief had recommended doing so three separate times to a Division Commander, who has the rank of a Deputy Chief.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on August 27, 2007