IN ADVANCE of what one lawmaker expects to be a "blistering" grand-jury report on the deaths of two Philadelphia firefighters, City Councilman Denny O'Brien will introduce a bill today that takes inspecting vacant warehouses a step further.
In the early morning of April 9, 2012, a five-alarm fire broke out in an abandoned six-story hosiery warehouse in Kensington. The fire, which engulfed more than half a city block, killed Lt. Robert Neary, 60, and Daniel Sweeney, 25, both of the Fire Department's Ladder 10 station.
O'Brien said his bill would amend the Fire Code by establishing new requirements for inventorying, inspecting, evaluating and marking abandoned and vacant buildings with placards.
Piggybacking on the new land-bank law's Vacant Property Review Committee, O'Brien's proposed Vacant Property Task Force would consist of a host of top city officials, or designees, to share ideas to prevent "powder kegs." Neary and Sweeney were trapped in the collapsed dilapidated building, which was tax-delinquent and had numerous code violations. Much of that, O'Brien said, will be addressed in the grand-jury report.
"We've identified, specifically, areas in [the Department of Licenses & Inspections], the Fire Department and other agencies whose expertise and responsibilities were compatible and concurrent," O'Brien said.
"This is not a document created for finger-pointing. This is a forward-looking document that says if we do this, we will be leading the way throughout the country in fire protection and safety.
"This stabilizes communities that are at risk, psychologically and from an infrastructure standpoint. This will protect firefighters and first alarmers."
He said he knows of no officer-development training in the Fire Department in recent years but has been calling for it since 2012.
If approved, the legislation would make way for inspections of warehouses in Councilwoman Maria Quinones-Sanchez's district, which is the most densely packed with commercial-industrial properties.