By Steve Tawa
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Leaders of the firefighters’ union in Philadelphia are calling for the resignation of Philadelphia fire commissioner Lloyd Ayers and two of his top deputies following the death last month of two firemen in a Kensington warehouse fire.
Local 22 president Bill Gault, who previously criticized as “reckless” the owners of the building in which the firefighters died, today was firing accusations at Ayers and deputy commissioners Ernest Hargett and John Devlin.
Gault says that critical tactical errors were made by fire department leaders while firefighters were on the scene of that April 9th fire. He says the failure of leadership was so egregious that all three men should resign.
About a half-hour after that fire was declared under control, four firefighters went into an adjoining furniture warehouse to perform what Commissioner Ayers called at the time a “routine check” to ensure that flames there had not reignited. A wall collapsed; two firefighters were quickly rescued but Lt. Robert Neary and FF Daniel Sweeney perished (see story).
The union says that Ayers was not on site but should have been, and that neither Hargett — in charge of operations — nor Devlin ordered the establishment of a “collapse zone,” which the union says should have been standard operating procedure.
An investigation into the cause of the fire is still underway (see related story). A Philadelphia grand jury is also investigating to determine if criminal charges are warranted against the building owners, who had been previously cited for violations by the city’s Department of Licenses and Inspections.