Boy Dies In Philadelphia Fire; Closest Engine Company Closed

WTFX
Reprinted with Permission

PHILADELPHIA - Fire Commissioner Lloyd Ayers is defending his department's response to a fatal fire that killed a 12 year old autistic boy.


Neighbors say the closest fire station, Engine 57, was closed when the fire erupted Saturday night because of the city's "rolling brownouts." Fire department records indicate firefighters arrived on the scene three minutes after receiving the call. But there are reports the first responder to arrive was actually a battalion chief in an SUV. A fire truck from Engine 68 didn't arrive until several minutes later. That station is just over a mile away from where the fire was burning on South 55th Street.

Commissioner Ayers explained on "Good Day Philadelphia" the nearby crew "left the fire house, went to pick up their equipment. They were actually going to change the apparatus out. That's the reason they were not at the station. But that was a perfectly normal operation." Ayers said "the operation was no different than any other operation that would go on normally during the day or in the evening any place in the city."

Ayers said when firefighters arrived at the burning house it was clear the house had been smoldering for quite a while. "It's just obvious it had been smoldering for some time. It broke out, there was a lot of fire. This fire was not called in immediately after it started." Ayers explained "when firefighters got here they knocked the fire down, they went to rescue this 12 year old boy who had unfortunately lost his life in this fire. Two of our firefighters actually fell through the stairwell trying to come back down after not being able to get to the young boy right away."

"When we stop and we think about there was no early warning in this house. It was smoke alarms, they were not connected properly." Ayers said an adult, possibly the father, struggled to get the boy out of the house. "It sounds like he tried to get him out but just was unsuccessful."

The mother escaped on the roof, the boy was found in the back of the house. Two neighboring homes were also damaged.

Fire Kills Autistic Boy In W. Philly

Authorities say a fire in a West Philadelphia house killed a 12-year-old autistic boy and injured two firefighters and a female resident.

The blaze on South 55th Street was reported shortly before 7 p.m. Saturday and also damaged three other houses, displacing more than a dozen people. Investigators say the boy was found in a second-floor room.

Firefighters were able to rescue a woman from the porch roof, and she was taken to the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania.

A fire department spokeswoman says two firefighters were also taken to the hospital for treatment of minor injures.

The cause of the fire is still under investigation. Fire officials say the home had smoke alarms but they were not functioning properly.

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Old Timer?
Frank, I dont' care how long you have been in the fire services. Have you ever gone into the community to talk with the people. Then you would know that they often do things to endanger themselves and their families, no matter how much you try to inform them of the dangers of fire. As for your accertion that the fire had not been noticied for along time, how do you know how long it was, since nobody saw when it started. And how do you know that the child had been dead a long, long time? Don't be so hard on these people. I still run across people who lock their doors from the insde, and tell me it's allright because they know where the key is, in case of a fire. The town was dead wrong to shut down that fire house.The one single thing people shoud be assured of is the quickest reponse time possible from their first responders, Period
When you ask, "Have you ever gone into the community to talk with the people" is amusing since I had been in 14-departments over 40-years. Here is how I got the crazy idea the fire had been burning for a while. "Ayers said when firefighters arrived at the burning house it was clear the house had been smoldering for quite a while. "It's just obvious it had been smoldering for some time. It broke out, there was a lot of fire. This fire was not called in immediately after it started." Ayers explained "when firefighters got here they knocked the fire down, they went to rescue this 12 year old boy who had unfortunately lost his life in this fire. Two of our firefighters actually fell through the stairwell trying to come back down after not being able to get to the young boy right away."
When our firefighters fall through a floor, it most likely means the fire had burned for a while.

I will bet they could afford a $10 smoke detector, don't you?

Here is our challenge and that is we are breaking our taxpayers on the cost of fire protection. We compete with all city departments. Taxes are out of control There will be more actions to reduce the cost of fire protection. How many of us are willing to give up a portion of our retirement or pay to save the system and and provide quality fire protection? Just a question!
Frank, no I don't know if they could afford a $10 dollar smoke dectector. And neither do you. And even if they couldn't, they probably could have gotten one free from the city. As I said there are people out there who you can't get to, no matter how much you try to educate them to the danger of fire. Hence I used the example of supposedly educated people locking themselves in their homes thinking if they know where the key is they are safe. You know as well as I do it is not a safe practice.
As for your challenge, why do you assume that fire protection should be the first thing that should be cut when money gets tight. Why not go after the politicians and ask them to spend our money a little more wisely. After all isn't that what they get paid to do. Cut programs that are useless, unnecessary and down right fraudulent, shutting down fire house should no be on this list of things to save money on. When they accomplish that, there probably would be enough money to fund vital services. I do not kwow about you Frank, but I came on this job in 1960, before masks, light weight hose, even enclosed compartments on the rigs for the members. I crawled down many a hallway to put out fires and protect people and property, all the time chocking my brains out. And for little pay as compared to the private sector. As I sometimes tell people,"I did my time in hell". I dont' want to bore you with my fire stories. But at this point in my life that's all I've got left besides my pension, and I don't intend to give up either.
Frank,

Yes, "Ayers said........". Ayers said a lot of stuff. He wasn't there. The guys who were actually on the fireground know that if they were coming from 0.1 miles away instead of 1.1 miles away, they may have gotten this kid out. As it was, two other people in the same house did get out.

You have no idea what you're talking about. Ayers will say anything to make it appear that the closing of E.57 had nothing to do with this fatality because it's his plan. He's trying to cover his ass.
"Ayers said when firefighters arrived at the burning house it was clear the house had been smoldering for quite a while. "It's just obvious it had been smoldering for some time.

That doesn't mean anything Frank. The fire could have started and was smoldering, perhaps the kid got scared and went to hide. A person can be in another room with a smoldering fire for sometime. When air gets to the fire, it can start to take off. Coming to the conclusion that nothing could be done because the fire was smoldering is a stretch right now. Blaming the death on the union is another stupid assumption. Gee, funny how in Orlando, firefighters were layed off for a convention center, yep, it is just because of greedy unions though right? Please.

When our firefighters fall through a floor, it most likely means the fire had burned for a while.
Not necessarily, depends on the construction and the integrity of the stairs in the first place.

I will bet they could afford a $10 smoke detector, don't you?
Maybe, maybe not, why assume?

How many of us are willing to give up a portion of our retirement or pay to save the system and and provide quality fire protection?
So you are placing blame here on wages and benefits, yet it takes two to bargain. Have you ever bargained a contract or been in a union? Your profile states you are federal, yet over the past 8 years federal employees got a raise, irregardless of what individual unions negotiated. Perhaps you are part of our federal problem, ever think of that? What have you given up to make things better and ease our tax dollars?
That aside, it takes staffing to effectively fight a fire, when staffing is cut it puts the public and other FF's in danger. The lies being spouted by politicians saying brownouts, reductions, etc have NO IMPACT, are outright lies. Such actions are in fact a gamble, here they lost, plain and simple, but it is easier to point fingers at the firefighters and union right?

So why should firefighters go back to the world of yesteryear where you worked twice as much and had to maintain a second or several jobs just to eek out a living? Why should it be firefighters to give up what they worked for so a city can build a new convention center, have flowers in the medians, or new street signs and so forth. THAT is the reality in these negotiations around many areas. If bothering to look, many local unions have conceeded much in terms of health insurance, sick time, vacation days, pay raises, and so forth. Yet rarely many of these stories make the news, yet people like you tout how overpaid we all are. Please.

Quality fire protection goes both ways. It takes both employer and employee to negotiate fairly. What we have seen more recently is the employer asking for more and more and more from the employee, with the excuse "times are tough". So where does the trust build back up? Watching a city cut your wage, benefits, and staffing and turn around and spend that money on needless things like convention centers, boardwalks etc is a huge slap in the face. Yet, people like you think we should keep giving more and more, despite what is given probably will never get back.
tonyg101Let’s all wait for the report and the facts of what happened. I started my fire service career in 1965, also with no mask or adequate protective clothing. I had a great career and served as a union president. I quit the union when I figured out all the union members and the IAFF cared about was seniority as opposed to the knowledge, skills, and abilities of everyone. Things have changed over the years and union might be more interested now in the people we protect as opposed to the members.

However, here is the standard line the union will take.
The union president starts by getting face time on TV and in the print media to get the taxpayers riled up. Next, he gets the IAFF involved in on the situation. Not one time will the union even consider slowing the rate of wages or retirement benefits to the taxpayers. How many smoke detectors could be bought if a single firefighter was not hired but instead, the department purchased and installed smoke detectors? What is the pay and fringe benefits for a firefighter in Philly?
tonyg101, I never listed all of my qualifications but I worked for a state fire marshal, as a fire chief in California and Indiana along with 30-years working for the Army, Air Force and Marine Corps. I have over 25 state certificfations along with being a certified fire officer with the state of California. I paid my dues and bones; I know what it is to see needless death.
I know how hard it is to get good fire prevention through the heads of taxpayers, firefighters and council. Sometimes we cannot see what is staring us in the face.
Look up the old Pew report on whom do we trust, April 18, 1997, titled, “TRUST AND CITIZEN ENGAGEMENT IN METROPOLITAN PHILADELPHIA: A CASE STUDY.” The fire service has high trust rating with the taxpayers but they also need to take from themselves and give it back to the community they serve. It is a two-way street.

Google this and it might help you understand what is happening in Philly and most communities. "TRUST AND CITIZEN ENGAGEMENT IN METROPOLITAN PHILADELPHIA: A CASE STUDY."
Frank, I found that "Trust and citizen engagement in metropolitan Phiadelphia : a case study. If I had known that it was a finding of a survey I would not have wasted my time. But I figured I would do you the courtesy and read it. It is full of statistcs and findings that are refered to as theoty. That word is a far cry from fact. Another word I found a few times in the study is term "activism". I really appreciate that you have been in many phases of firefighting and I respect you diverse and lenghty service. When you say firefighters have to take from themselves and give back to the community they serve, it seems to me you are talking money wise, like taking a cut in pay and benefits. I am sure the firefighting community volenteers in many community activities. It seems to me you also have a grudge against the firefighter's unions and their officers. Frank, firefighters are not the only labor group represented by a union. Where I worked it was called an association,not a union. The teachers have a union, the transit workers have a union, carpenters have a union, even the auto workers. There are private sector workers and public sector workers represented by unions. You mention something about buying and installing smoke detectors and not hiring a single firefighter, I hope I misunderstood that. Smoke detectors do not put out fires. I really don't care what a Philly firefighter earns, but I am sure it is not enough for the job he does. Since you know how hard it is to get people to understand the importance of fire safety why were you so hard on the young boy's parents. How do you know what their intelligence level or standard of living is. Also in my time on the job both the union and the city's top priority was training training and more training to protect the people we serve as well as the firefighting personel. One last point. Why do you single out the fire service as havig to give back to the community, what about the rest of the public sector workers. Stay well, Frank
Frank,

You should have taken your own advice and stopped after your first sentence.

And what in the world are you talking about with this Pew report? What is it that the firefighters have to "take from themselves and give it back to the community they serve"? As one of the busiest fire departments in the country, Philly firefighters don't "take" anything from the community that isn't given back many times over in the form of first-rate Fire and EMS services.

If you want to know what a Philly fireman earns, ask Old Timer. (He says it's 100 thousand a year). He doesn't know what he's talking about, but either do you. So that should be good.
Tony,

Excellent point about the smoke detectors. The way some people talk about them, you'd think smoke detectors will actually drag everybody out of the house and put the fire out, too.
Putting five or six firefighters on an apparatus will not save the life of a sleeping person living in a home without a smoke detector. There are exceptions of course. Where and when do most die in a fire? The fire starts at night while the occupants are sleeping and are unaware of a fire.

Stopping a fire in the home is a system approach. A working smoke detector is the first part of a system approach to saving lives.

If you cannot detect a fire early and warn the occupants so they can evacuate, then call the department; the firefighter portion is important in limiting the fire and removing those affected.
I am not anti-union, I am anti anything that does not support the reason we exist. To save lives at a reasonable cost and to protect the lives of citizens.

What is the pay and fringe benefits of a Philly firefighter? What is their budget, including retirement?

I am more interested in the real dangers affecting this nation and that is Middle Eastern illegal alien terrorists entering the U.S. and merging into the Latino/Hispanic illegal immigration issue. Middle Eastern terrorists are going to Iran, Syria, Brazil, and Venezuela to learn Spanish, English and advanced terrorism techniques they then pay $40,000-$50,000 apiece to gain entry into the U.S. In Travis County, Texas alone, on the average, 20-Middle Easterners a week are going to court to have their names changed to Hispanic ones. Why?

My conversation is over on the Philly issue

I am focused on anti-terrorism and our government's inability to respond to a WMD better than they can to an oil spill. THEY CANNOT and the DOJ/OIG report issued in June proves it.

Here is a portion of an article on this subject: “Inspector General criticized the rest of the Justice Department: Neither the Department nor the components within the Department have implemented adequate WMD response plans. The Department has not designated an entity or individual to provide central oversight of WMD-related activities, and responsibility for management of the Department's response program is uncoordinated and fragmented. The Department has not updated its policies to reflect recent national policies, existing policies have not been fully implemented, and we found no Department policies or plans for responding to a WMD incident.”

Please look at how serious it is when our governemtn cannot respond to a WMD. Google this: "Review of the Department’s Preparation to Respond to a WMD Incident, May 2010, report number I-2010-004 http://www.globalsecurity.org/security/library/report/2010/wmd-resp...
Frank,

So your issue isn't with firefighters or their unions, but really it's with illegal immigrants, terrorists and real or perceived WMD threats as well as the supposed inability of the government to deal with the situation. Fair enough but then you probably should never have responded to this discussion in the first place.

It's always hard to control immigration in a nation that prides itself on being free and open. There are risks inherent in that notion but the options that might make us safer would severely impinge on our freedoms. Maybe you don't mind losing liberties and freedoms, but the of us may. It's the price of freedom.

WMD's are technologically not that difficult to build, mostly their threat is more one of terror and fear than an attempt to actually kill a lot of people. Just imagine if one were to collect a large amount of asbestos containing material and then explode it. Asbestos fibers (some microscopically small perhaps) would be enough to panic those in the plume. Timothy McVeigh is another fine example of WMD capability.

I read through Global Security's report you linked, I think you're jumping the gun a bit. You're stating that our government can not respond to a WMD (any better than it can to an oil spill) yet, that is not what the GS report said. Speaking about the DOJ, the report said that they had, "not implemented adequate WMD response plans... and that they are not "...not fully prepared to provide a coordinated response to a WMD incident.

The report states that "the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) has taken appropriate steps to prepare to respond to a potential WMD attack. The FBI has implemented a headquarters-led program that has established WMD response plans, provides WMD training to its staff and regularly conducts and participates in WMD exercises.

Granted that the DOJ has a ways to go, certainly when the FBI is capable of coming up to speed, but don't mistake bureaucratic bullshit and inertia as a valid argument for potential failure and/or incompetence on the part of the government. Unless you're just looking to kick a particular administration then all bets are off and you're really only being partisan rather than concerned.

I suggest you relax, let the professionals handle it and just keep stocking your bomb shelter. Besides, 12/21/12 will be here soon enough and then none of this will matter.

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