FIRE COMMISSIONER NICHOLAS SCOPPETTA
ANNOUNCES RELEASE OF FIRE REPORTS
JANUARY 23, 2005 BRONX AND BROOKLYN FATAL FIRES
Fire Commissioner Nicholas Scoppetta today announced the release of two reports on the fatal fires that occurred in the Bronx and Brooklyn on January 23, 2005 , where three members of the Department died from injuries sustained at these incidents. Immediately following the tragic events of January 23, the Fire Department initiated a complete and comprehensive investigation of the events and precipitating factors that contributed to the death of Lieutenants Curtis Meyran and John Bellew and Firefighter Richard Sclafani. The reports released today are comprehensive analyses of the events that took place including timelines and narratives of each incident. The reports also list recommendations on operational improvements intended to increase safety.
“I appointed 10 senior chief officers to conduct a thorough and comprehensive investigation into the circumstances of these terrible tragedies, and I am satisfied that both of these reports are thorough in their analysis and accurately represent the tragic events of that day. Both reports recommend a number of procedural and operational improvements and many of them have already been implemented. As a result of these investigations and the actions we take, the Fire Department will be able to better prepare its members, ensuring greater safety for firefighters and the public,” said Fire Commissioner Scoppetta. “Firefighters across this City face unpredictable and dangerous conditions everyday. Some of these conditions we can control and others we can only try to predict. What we can do is ensure that this Department vigorously implements the recommendations contained in these reports so that we do our part to ensure the safety of our firefighters.”
In the immediate aftermath of the fatal fires, Fire Commissioner Scoppetta appointed 10 chief officers (five on each team) to begin an investigation into both incidents. Each chief officer had previous training and experience in safety investigations. Through hundreds of interviews and thousands of hours of work, recreating timelines, examining floor plans and reviewing audio recordings, t heir findings and recommendations are contained in these reports.
In the case of the Bronx fire, a critical piece of evidence was digitally recorded audio containing the handie-talkie (radio) transmissions between firefighters and fire officers. The recordings, also released today with the report, were part of a Department pilot program of which Battalion 17’s suburban vehicle was included. Immediately following the incident, Fire Commissioner Scoppetta ordered an expansion of the program to all 50 Battalions citywide. There were no such recordings for the fatal fire in Brooklyn .
The recommendations contained in the Bronx fire report include deployment of a personal rope system, installation of handie-talkie recorder technology in all Battalion vehicles; and incorporation of an emergency alert button on handie-talkie radios. All of these initiatives are currently underway and being implemented department-wide. In early June, the Fire Department announced that a selection of a personal safety system had been made. Beginning in mid-October, the components of this system will be distributed to members in the field and training on this new equipment will begin. In addition, installation of the battalion recorders is scheduled for completion before the end of the year. And, installation of the emergency alert button department-wide is also scheduled for completion by the end of the year.
Additional recommendations for increased training on specific operational issues have also been addressed through training sessions at the FDNY Training Academy , which began in September. Other methods such as Safety Messages, Pass Along Bulletins, WNYF Case Studies, and training videos are currently in development.
Similarly, the recommendations contained in the Brooklyn fire report have also been addressed through additional training sessions at the Fire Academy and the Bureau of Operations.
On January 23, 2005, Fire Lieutenant Curtis W. Meyran of Battalion 26 and Firefighter John G. Bellew of Ladder Company 27 in the Bronx were killed after responding to a third-alarm fire at 236 East 178 th Street in the Bronx. Lieutenant Meyran, age 46, was a 15-year veteran of FDNY. Firefighter Bellew, age 37 was a 10-year veteran of the Department (Bellew was posthumously promoted to Lieutenant in April 2005). Both Lieutenant Meyran and Firefighter Bellew were treated at the scene and transported to St. Barnabas Hospital where they succumbed to their injuries.
Later in the day, Firefighter Richard T. Sclafani of Ladder Company 103, age 37 and a 10-year veteran of the FDNY, was fatally injured battling a second-alarm fire in at 577 Jerome Street in East New York , Brooklyn . Firefighter Sclafani was transported to Brookdale Hospital where he also succumbed to his injuries.
Contact: Francis X. Gribbon and Virginia Lam (FDNY) (718) 999-2056