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Council To Probe Blaze That Claimed 2 Firefighters

(This warehouse fire on April 9, 2012, killed two firefighters.   File photo)

(This warehouse fire on April 9, 2012, killed two firefighters. File photo)

Mike Dunn Mike Dunn
Mike Dunn is City Hall bureau chief for KYW Newsradio 1060. He covers...
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By Mike Dunn

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – City Council plans to hold hearings into Fire Department policies and procedures, in the wake of the April warehouse blaze in Kensington that claimed the lives of two firefighters.

Calling for the hearing this past week was city Councilman Jim Kenney, whose father was a firefighter. He said in the wake of the April tragedy, a closer look at the department is needed.

“Not necessarily to cast blame on anyone, but to review all of the investigatory information that has come as a result over the summer and the fall, so that we can limit the opportunity for this tragedy to happen again.”

Also supporting the council probe was Councilman Bobby Henon.

“Its our responsibility to have a hearing, and indeed find the facts and the truth. If there’s something broken, we need to fix it. And its time for the families and the firefighters in this city of Philadelphia to heal.”

The firefighters union has charged that critical tactical errors were made by fire department leaders on the scene of that April 9th fire. The union called for the resignation of Fire Commissioner Lloyd Ayers and two top deputies. The mayor has voiced continued support for Ayers.

The April 9th fire began in a warehouse. About a half-hour after that fire was declared under control, four firefighters went into an adjoining furniture store to perform what 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 two others — Lt. Robert Neary, 59, and FF Daniel Sweeney, 25 — perished.

An investigation into the cause of the fire is still underway. 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.

Kenney says the council hearing will likely not be scheduled until the fall, after council’s summer recess.

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