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Call For Council Hearings Into Fatal Kensington Warehouse Fire

(credit: CBS) Walt Hunter
Eyewitness News Reporter Walt Hunter is one of the market's ...
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By Walt Hunter

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Following an exclusive CBS 3 I-Team report on an April 9, 2012 Kensington Warehouse fire, that killed Lieutenant Robert Neary and firefighter Daniel Sweeney, injuring two other firefighters, City Councilman James Kenney is calling for City Council hearings into the deadly five-alarmer and building collapse.

The I-Team reported findings from a preliminary report by NIOSH, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, which started its investigation in the days just after the fire (see related story). The preliminary report, which does not contain recommendations, had been circulated over the summer to Philadelphia Fire Officials for review and possible revisions, before a final report is issued.

Kenney says the hearings will look into how the city’s Licenses and Inspections Department and Fire Department handled both the vacant warehouse and the fire that destroyed it, causing a wall to collapse trapping and killing the firefighters.

As reported exclusively by CBS 3, NIOSH found that the vacant dilapidated warehouse was open and used by prostitutes and drug users.

NIOSH revealed that L&I had received nine complaints, and that as many as 65 people were living in the crumbling warehouse, but it remained unsealed as flames broke out, early on the morning of April 9,2012.

“I think the issues related to L&I’s incompetence basically led directly to the deaths of these two firefighters,” the Councilman explained, as he announced his plans to introduce the resolution calling for hearings at a Council session Thursday.

The NIOSH report also found that, despite building  collapses that began almost as soon as firefighters arrived more than two hours later firefighters were not ordered out of a furniture store, directly under one wall of the building that later fell with deadly results.

Responding to Kenney’s comment, Mark McDonald, Press Secretary for Mayor Michael Nutter, stated, “It seems unprofessional. It sounds like Kenney really doesn’t need to hold hearings. He’s already made up his mind.”

NIOSH officials previously declined comment. It’s not yet known when the final version of their report will be released.