MEDIA BRIEFING/UPDATE ON
BRONX AND BROOKLYN
The Fire Department has launched a thorough and comprehensive
investigation into the circumstances surrounding the fatal
fires at 236 E. 178th Street in the Bronx and 577 Jerome Street
in Brooklyn. The Department’ s Safety Command is reviewing
all evidence in this ongoing investigation. Below is a preliminary
update on several issues that have surfaced since these incidents:
- Fire marshals have made a preliminary determination of
the cause of the fire in Brooklyn: combustible materials
in close proximity to an electric space heater in the basement.
- Cause of the Bronx fire was, according to marshals, an
overheated extension cord. An occupant who discovered the
fire was awakened by the sound of sparking from the cord,
which was located between his bed and a wall. He pulled
the bed away from the wall, saw the sparking wire and then
noticed his mattress and bedding material had caught fire.
He briefly tried to put the fire out - was unsuccessful
- then alerted everyone in the apartment and fled.
- Part of the investigation of the Bronx fire will focus
on possible illegal alterations that appear to have been
made in the fourth floor apartment where firefighters were
trapped, and which prevented them from accessing a second
means of egress (fire escape).
- The Department’s Safety Command is in possession
of digitally recorded audio containing the handie-talkie
(radio) transmissions between firefighters and officers
at the Bronx fire. The tape is a critical piece of evidence
in the investigation. The recordings were made through a
device installed in Battalion 17’s suburban vehicle
- one of three such devices in three of the Department’s
50 battalion cars citywide (the others are Battalion 7 in
Manhattan and Battalion 31 in Brooklyn). There are no such
recordings for the fatal fire in Brooklyn.
- As a result, Commissioner Scoppetta has ordered expansion
of the pilot program throughout the city. This initiative
to place recorders in all 50 battalions will begin immediately.
- In light of the tragic circumstances at the Bronx fire,
the Department is reviewing the feasibility of providing
strong, lightweight ropes to every firefighter. Personal
ropes had been issued in the past, but were taken out of
use in 2000 due to several issues including the weight,
bulkiness and maintenance of the ropes. (There were several
Life Saving Ropes on the roof of the Bronx fire, and one
firefighter descended one of those ropes in an attempt to
rescue the trapped firefighters, but by the time he got
into position it was too late.)
- Safety will also be conducting tests of the fire apparatus
(Engine 42) used to supply hoselines operating at the Bronx
fire. It has been determined that there was a loss of water
in one of the hoselines being operated at the fire, and
it is believed this loss of water may have contributed to
an escalation of fire conditions including extension of
the fire from the 3rd to the 4th floors, trapping firefighters.
Contact: Francis X. Gribbon / David Billig
(FDNY) (718) 999-2056