Philadelphia Firefighters Union leaders say Fire Commissioner Lloyd Ayers and other officials are at least partially at fault in the deaths of two firefighters last month in a Kensington warehouse blaze.
Local 22 officials said department leaders should have been more careful before sending firefighters to investigate inside a building next to the blazing warehouse. Local 22 President Bill Gault, who said Tuesday a failure of leadership and tactical mistakes were major factors in the firefighters’ deaths, called for Ayers and other top officials to resign.
Department officials dispute the claims that a better analysis of the risks might have prevented the deaths. Executive Fire Chief Richard Davison said the department response is limited because of ongoing investigations.
Philadelphia Director of Public Safety Michael Resnick called the union’s allegations irresponsible. “We dispute the allegations made by Local 22 leadership. We had professional incident command at the scene, collapse zones were established, there were safety officers present at the scene,” Resnick said. “The administration, the mayor, myself, the chief of staff, have the utmost faith and confidence in the leadership of the fire department.”
Gault said the department’s “leadership does not own all the blame for the deaths of our brothers. Not by a long shot. Absentee landlords in our city who allow their properties to deteriorate into drug dens and death traps for firefighters are a disgrace to society.”Gault said no amount of money can compensate the families of the deceased firefighters, but he said he still hopes they win civil and criminal justice from the warehouse building owner.
The warehouse that burned had been slated for redevelopment as apartments. City officials, who warned the owners to seal up doors and windows, were working on legal action.