Inventory of empty Philly buildings proposed to cut risks to firefighters

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 Philadelphia Councilman Dennis O'Brien displays a brick from a vacant building where two city firefighters were killed in 2012. He's proposing a task force to inspect empty facilities and note floor plans and other details that could prove important in time of emergency. (Tom MacDonald/WHYY)

Philadelphia Councilman Dennis O'Brien displays a brick from a vacant building where two city firefighters were killed in 2012. He's proposing a task force to inspect empty facilities and note floor plans and other details that could prove important in time of emergency. (Tom MacDonald/WHYY)

Philadelphia is moving to inventory and inspect unoccupied buildings. 

With a brick pulled from the rubble left by a 2012 warehouse fire that killed two Philadelphia firefighters, Councilman Dennis O’Brien Wednesday talked about the vacant property task force he wants to create.

Inside information about empty properties could save firefighters’ lives, he said.

“If a structure is safe for interior inspection, a pre-fire floorplan including photographs and structural conditions should be developed to aid in future incident responses,” O’Brien said. “Overall risk threats will be determined for identification with an exterior marking placard.”

Fire Commissioner Derrick Sawyer said vacant buildings can be deathtraps for firefighters and members of the community. But he said his department follows national standards once a fire is reported.

“We take great risk to save savable lives, we take minimal risk to save savable property, and we take no risk to save property that is already lost,” Sawyer said.

If creation of the task force is approved and signed by Mayor Michael Nutter, it would start work in the 7th Council District. It’s home to the highest concentration of empty factories and industrial properties in Philadelphia.

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