Warehouse in fatal Philadelphia fire had history of complaints

Two Philadelphia firefighters are dead, three others have been injured as the result of a five alarm fire in the Kensington neighborhood.  

The six story warehouse where the fire began has been a problem before.

Lt. Robert Neary and Firefighter Daniel Sweeney of Ladder 10 died when the roof and a wall collapsed on them as they checked a neighboring building that had been hit by embers during the multi-alarm fire.  Philadelphia Fire Commissioner Lloyd Ayers called the deaths a tragedy.

“The fire marshall is investigating, he has his crew investigating it’s going to be a a long arduous investigation as far as the collapse and the danger still there as far as entering the building and entering that area,” said Ayers.

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City Councilwoman Maria Quinones-Sanchez says the property was on the city’s radar.

“We had been approached about three years ago by someone who had purchased the building and was in the process of renovating it and converting it to 80 apartments.  As you know the housing slump created a problem for financing,” said Quinones-Sanchez.

The building became one of 30,000 vacant structures in Philadelphia.  Mayor Nutter’s Chief of Staff Everett Gillison says neighbors had complained about the property.  City officials were in contact with the building owner trying to make sure it was properly sealed so that squatters couldn’t get in.

“The city has been actively engaged with these folks and actually taking steps so that they are holding themselves responsible to the city and what they are doing,” said Gillison.

Neither of the property owner’s lawyers would comment for this story.

Quinones-Sanchez says city council is debating a bill that would mandate using steel plates instead of plywood to seal structures to keep people out of vacant buildings.

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