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Officials are punished in N.Y. fire

They made no plan for a blaze at the building near ground zero. Also, smoking wasn't curbed.

August 28, 2007|From Newsday

new york -- In a highly unusual move, three ranking New York Fire Department officials were removed from their posts Monday, after the mayor and fire commissioner said they appeared to be responsible for information lapses that led to the deaths of two firefighters at the former Deutsche Bank building.

Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg and Fire Commissioner Nicholas Scoppetta announced the officials' reassignments and a preliminary cause of the Aug. 18 blaze in the building: careless smoking by workers on the 17th floor.

"Smoking was prohibited in the building," Scoppetta said. "Nevertheless, smoking was engaged in throughout the building, and particularly on the 17th floor, where the fire originated."

Bloomberg took a stern tone in talking about the lack of a firefighting plan specific to the building, which is in the process of being dismantled.

"Despite the hazardous conditions, senior fire officers decided against creating a unique plan for the building," he said. "This is even more disturbing when you take into account that a battalion chief had recommended doing so three separate times. [His] recommendations were not followed, and we have to learn why."

Bloomberg did not name the battalion chief who made the recommendations.

The three officials are Deputy Chief Richard Fuerch, the Division 1 commander; Battalion Chief John McDonald, the Battalion 1 commander; and Engine Company 10 Capt. Peter Bosco. They will work at FDNY headquarters in Brooklyn until further notice. A criminal investigation of the fire is continuing.

Last week, Bloomberg and Scoppetta admitted that the department had not developed a unique plan in case of a fire at the high-rise, which was 41 stories before it was damaged by a portion of the collapsing World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001. The building now is 26 stories.

In the Aug. 18 fire, a central water pipe was not connected, putting the lives of hundreds of firefighters in jeopardy, and the building had not been inspected since March, when it should have been inspected every 15 days, Bloomberg and Scoppetta said Monday.

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