Philadelphia Fire Commissioner Derrick Sawyer said Tuesday that his department plans to use an internal critique of the December basement blaze that killed Firefighter Joyce Craig to quickly implement changes while a more comprehensive review is completed.
Sawyer said the critique - which pointed out tactical errors, communications failures, and delayed responses at the scene - allows the department to begin "addressing those issues and fixing them ahead of time." Such critiques are carried out after most major fires, he said.
The report on the Dec. 9 fire at 1655 Middleton St. in West Oak Lane, compiled by Deputy Fire Chief Richard Davison and obtained by The Inquirer this week, focuses mainly on actions taken by fire crews on the scene.
Union officials have said that the critique is inadequate and that Davison was not provided enough information about the fire, including the radio transmissions of commanders on the scene.
Sawyer said Tuesday that the more thorough report, including a timeline of events at the scene, will be released when it is completed. He declined to go into detail on its findings.
Davison's critique identified several key issues: tactical errors, including inadequate ventilation in the house; delays in getting ladder trucks to the fire; and poor communication at the scene.
Craig was one of the first three firefighters inside the house. After a basement door was left open, flames shot up to the first floor, and Craig sounded a Mayday shortly afterward. The two other firefighters in the house left under deteriorating conditions.
Craig's body was not found for 18 minutes after the Mayday call, according to dispatch transcripts reviewed by The Inquirer. Sources have said that on-scene commanders did not realize she was missing.
If Craig declared a Mayday, Sawyer said, "someone had to know she was missing."
Who knew, and when, is still unclear.
Sawyer said the department's full report has "a very good sense" of those questions, but would not comment further.
The critique said the circumstances surrounding Craig's death had "identified real training deficiencies" within the department.
Craig, 36, a mother of two, was the department's first female firefighter to die in the line of duty.
Sawyer said the department had recognized a need for improved training before the report's release.
"Before this critique even came out, we had already started working on a plan to start some of our training back up," Sawyer said. That includes increased training on Mayday procedures and basement fires, two of the critique's recommendations.
"I think we can't get enough training," he added.
Sawyer said that companies are charged with continuing to train members after they leave the Fire Academy and document such training.
"I think people have to be accountable, and say, 'Have I trained my company members?' " he said.
He asked for patience as the department completes reports on the fire.
"I don't think we did everything perfect. I would never begin to say that," he said. "But we have to go through a process before we say what did and didn't happen. It's easy for people to point blame. Most of the people who are talking now, they haven't seen half of the information."