FIRE COMMISSIONER SCOPPETTA ANNOUNCES
PENALTIES AGAINST SEVEN FIRE OFFICERS
AFTER REVIEW OF DOI REPORT ON FIRE AT 130 LIBERTY STREET
Fire Commissioner Nicholas Scoppetta today announced that two fire officers have been permanently relieved of their commands and reprimanded, and five chief officers have also received reprimands, in connection with their failure to insure required inspections were performed at 130 Liberty Street prior to the August 2007 fire that took the lives of two firefighters, Robert Beddia and Joseph Graffagnino. All seven officers agreed to accept these penalties in lieu of formal charges and an administrative trial before the city’s Office of Administrative Trials and Hearings (OATH).
Today’s announcement followed the release last week of a report by the City’s Department of Investigations (DOI) on the results of an investigation of the Fire and Buildings Departments’ actions leading up to the 130 Liberty Street fire. DOI’s administrative investigation began after a 16-month criminal investigation by Manhattan District Attorney Robert Morgenthau that resulted in indictments against the John Galt Corporation and three of its workers. No criminal charges were filed against any City employees.
Once demolition of 130 Liberty Street began, Fire Department regulations required inspections of the building every 15 days. Fire officers in FDNY Division 1, Battalion 1, and Engine 10, who had responsibility for conducting inspections, failed to inspect 130 Liberty Street between the commencement of demolition in March 2007 and the fire on August 18.
Based on the failure to conduct inspections of 130 Liberty Street, or ensure that they were done, the following Fire Department officers are subject to these disciplinary actions:
- Deputy Chief Richard Fuerch, permanent loss of command at Division 1 and disciplinary reprimand, for failing to properly enforce regulations and orders relating to the inspection of buildings in Division 1.
- Captain Peter Bosco, permanent loss of command at Engine 10 and disciplinary reprimand, for failing to control and be responsible for the inspection of buildings in his administrative district.
- Deputy Chief Paul Cresci, 1st Division, disciplinary reprimand for failing to properly enforce regulations and orders relating to the inspection of buildings in Division 1.
- Deputy Chief John Bley, 1st Division, disciplinary reprimand for failing to properly enforce regulations and orders relating to the inspection of buildings in Division 1.
- Deputy Chief Roger Sakowich, 8th Division (formerly assigned to Battalion 1), disciplinary reprimand for failing to supervise the inspection of buildings in Battalion 1 and failing to see that all relevant regulations and orders were strictly enforced.
- Battalion Chief Ronald Schmutzler, 1st Battalion, disciplinary reprimand for failing to supervise the inspection of buildings in Battalion 1 and failing to see that all relevant regulations and orders were strictly enforced.
- Battalion Chief Robert Norcross, 1st Battalion, disciplinary reprimand for failing to supervise the inspection of buildings in Battalion 1 and failing to see that all relevant regulations and orders were strictly enforced.
“Inspections are a critically important function of the Department and the failure of company officers to perform them - and the failure by supervisors to ensure they are being completed - is a serious breach of their responsibilities,” said Fire Commissioner Nicholas Scoppetta. “Given all the circumstances of this case, as detailed in DOI’s report, I believe these penalties are both fair and appropriate.”
“Inspections are not just about public safety – they are about firefighter safety, and the Department is committed to making certain we do everything possible to avoid another tragedy such as occurred at 130 Liberty Street,” said Commissioner Scoppetta. “We have already made several critical changes to improve accountability in our inspectional system and more is planned to further enhance the Department’s ability to better protect the public and our firefighters.”
Since the August 2007 fire, the Fire Department has made numerous changes to improve its inspectional program, including the following:
- A new 25-member Construction, Demolition and Abatement (CDA) inspection unit has been created in the Bureau of Fire Prevention and is now performing inspections and enforcing safety regulations at CDA buildings.
- The FDNY is engaged in a comprehensive overhaul of its field inspection program that will result in a shift from cyclical to risk-based inspections. IBM is working under a four-year, $24 million contract to create a central database for all FDNY building inspection and safety information that will be shared with and connected to other city agency databases (DOB and DEP). The resulting technology will drive an inspection program that will prioritize based upon factors such as violations, hazards and other risks.
- Fire Department field units have a new computerized system of logging and tracking CDA buildings in their respective administrative districts. The system has significantly improved compliance with required inspections.
- Borough Commands – previously not directly involved in the inspectional activity and reporting structure – now have oversight of all field unit inspectional activity within their boroughs.
- 33 initiatives proposed by the Mayor’s CDA Task Force are being implemented. These wide-ranging initiatives have already improved procedures and information-sharing between the three agencies with jurisdiction over CDA buildings (FDNY, DOB and DEP). Key changes include a ban on smoking at CDA sites; training of DEP inspectors on fire safety at abatement sites; and notifications by DEP and DOB to FDNY when either large/complex abatement permits or construction/demolition permits are issued.
- FDNY increased by 50 percent the amount of time allotted for building inspections by field units, from 6 hours to 9 hours.
- Training on inspectional duty has been upgraded in all ranks, from probationary firefighter to deputy chief.
Press Contact: Francis X. Gribbon & Steve Ritea, (FDNY) (718) 999-2056