In review of fatal Philly blaze, former fire official calls for more accountability from department

A former fire official claims that the Philadelphia Fire Department isn’t owning up to flaws that might have contributed to the deaths of two firefighters in an April blaze.

City Council members held a hearing Thursday to review policies and procedures in the wake of the Kensington warehouse fire.

Former Fire Commissioner Roger Ulshafer said the department leaders haven’t acknowledge shortcomings.

“Here are our recommendations — that safety officer training be required on a regular basis. The last safety officer training was held in 2007 and 25 percent of those officers have since retired,” Ulshafer said. “Roll call accountability slips are inadequate, we should have GPS tracking systems.”

The GPS devices would allow commanders to track the whereabouts of every firefighter during a fire.

Ulshafer called for greater accountability.

“The department has circled the wagons. They have their helmets on and they are in the turtle position. The fire department is out of control,” he said. “What changes have been made so that this disaster doesn’t happen again today or tomorrow?”

Firefighting expert Vincent Dunn testified.

“A collapse and fire like this with the line-of-duty deaths is the nightmare of all fire chiefs and firefighters,” he said. “This is a tragedy that no one wants to happen.”

The Nutter administration is withholding comment until completion of all investigations into the fatal fire.

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