• USFA: New York On-Duty Death

    East Islip firefighter found deceased at home after alarm
    USFA Published Thursday, September 25, 2014

    The U.S. Fire Administration has announced the official on-duty death of Firefighter Allen Westby, 67, of the East Islip Fire Department on September 23, 2014.

    Firefighter Westby responded to alarm on the evening of September 22nd and was found deceased at his residence the following morning. The nature and cause of fatal injury are still to be determined.

    Tribute is being paid to Firefighter Allen Westby at http://apps.usfa.fema.gov/firefighter-fatalities/
     
    To date, 64 firefighter fatalities have been reported to USFA in 2014.  Year-to-date and annual USFA firefighter fatality reports are posted online at http://apps.usfa.fema.gov/firefighter-fatalities/fatalityData/statistics

    Fatality status is provisional and may change as USFA contacts State Fire Marshals to verify fatality incident information.

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    To date, 64 firefighter fatalities have been reported to USFA in 2014.

    FDNY Firefighter Continues to Battle Cancer Cancer Claims Three FDNY Members in One Day

    9/11 Illness Claims Three FDNY Members

    Lieutenant and two firefighters had worked at Ground Zero after the attacks
    This combo of undated photos provided by the Fire Department of New York shows, from left, Lt. Howard Bischoff and firefighters Daniel Heglund and Robert Leaver. The three retired firefighters who worked at ground zero have all died on the same day from illnesses related to the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks, according to fire officials. Fire Commissioner Daniel Nigro said in a statement Thursday, Sept 25, 2014, that the three died within hours of each other on Monday. (AP Photo/FDNY)
    Published Thursday, September 25, 2014

    NEW YORK (AP) — Three retired firefighters who worked at ground zero have died on the same day from cancer, an illness that many fear might be connected to toxic World Trade Center dust released on Sept. 11, fire officials said Thursday.

    Lt. Howard Bischoff, 58, and firefighters Robert Leaver, 56, and Daniel Heglund, 58, died within hours of one another Monday.

    Their deaths are "a painful reminder that 13 years later we continue to pay a terrible price for the department's heroic efforts," Fire Commissioner Daniel Nigro said in a statement.

    Thousands of people who aided in the rescue and recovery effort were diagnosed with respiratory ailments and other health problems in the years after the attacks. Cancer, though, remains the biggest fear for people exposed to the gritty soot at the site.

    Hundreds of first responders have gotten cancer in the 13 years since the attacks, but doctors and researchers are still uncertain whether there is any link between those illnesses and 9/11. Cancer is the leading cause of death for Americans in their mid-40s to mid-60s, making it hard to tell which deaths, if any, might be related. Most medical studies have not found evidence of a substantial surge in cancer rates, though researchers have spotted some worrisome trends.

    Congress has set aside $2.78 billion to compensate people with illnesses that might be related to the attacks. Administrators of the fund have included the most common types of cancer as qualifying illnesses.

    "On that day when first responders arrived, the air was toxic and remained toxic for many months afterward," said Jake Lemonda, president of the Uniformed Fire Officers Association.

    The Fire Department of New York lost 343 firefighters on 9/11. The department maintains a memorial to 89 other firefighters it believes died of illnesses. That tally doesn't yet include Bischoff, Leaver or Heglund.

    Their deaths come as advocates urge Congress to reauthorize the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act, which provides medical treatment and compensation to those who got sick from exposure to toxic air after Sept. 11.

    Fire officials knew the three were sick, said Lemonda, whose union represents fire lieutenants, captains, battalion chiefs, deputy chiefs, medical officers and supervising fire marshals in the FDNY. One had leukemia, one had esophageal cancer and the third had colon cancer.

    Funerals for Leaver and Heglund were scheduled for Friday. The service for Leaver will be held at Francis of Assisi Church in West Nyack at 10 a.m. Heglund's funeral will be at the Centerport Volunteer Firehouse at 10:30 a.m.

    A funeral for Bischoff will be held at 11 a.m. Saturday at St. Aloysius Church in Jackson, New Jersey.

    Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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    Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
  • Sentencing in New York Fire, Ambush Case

    Eight years in prison for woman who bought firearms for gunman in fatal ambush
    A house burns Monday, Dec. 24, 2012 in Webster, New York. A former convict set a house and car ablaze in his lakeside New York state neighborhood to lure firefighters then opened fire on them, killing two and engaging police in a shootout before killing himself while several homes burned. Authorities used an armored vehicle to evacuate the area. (AP Photo/Democrat & Chronicle, Jamie Germano)
    Published Wednesday, September 17, 2014

    ROCHESTER, N.Y. (AP) — A New York woman was sentenced to eight years in federal prison Wednesday for supplying guns to a former neighbor who used them to kill his sister and two firefighters in a Christmas Eve ambush that also caused seven homes to burn to the ground.

    FRM/FFN Webster Fire, Ambush Coverage

    Dawn Nguyen, 25, pleaded guilty in June to three felonies, including supplying guns to a known felon. Before her sentencing, she apologized to firefighters and others in the courtroom and asked for forgiveness.

    The sentence is much harsher than the eight- to 14-month prison term suggested by federal sentencing guidelines.

    U.S. Magistrate David Larimer said it was justified because Nguyen knew that William Spengler, 62, had served time in prison for bludgeoning his grandmother to death with a hammer in 1981 and had said he would kill again.

    "You know someone was involved in the death of their grandmother. That alone should raise not one but 100 red flags," Larimer said in the courtroom crowded with members of the slain firefighters' West Webster Fire Department and other first responders. "Maybe this is not the kind of person you want to provide with guns."

    Prosecutors said Nguyen accepted $1,000 from Spengler to go with him to a Gander Mountain store in June 2010 and buy a semi-automatic rifle and pistol-grip shotgun, lying on a form that they were for her.

    More than two years later, the weapons were found Dec. 24, 2012, near Spengler's body following the ambush that killed volunteer firefighters Tomasz Kaczowka and Michael Chiapperini. Spengler committed suicide.

    Nguyen's attorney, Matthew Parrinello, said Nguyen believed Spengler wanted the weapons for hunting and could not have predicted what he would do.

    "This was a quirky, weird, crazy neighbor that she knew, but he was nice and kind and he did things for her family," Parrinello, said. "He never gave her any indication prior to her purchasing the weapons that he was going to do anything violent."

    Nguyen, who was a college student at the time, turned around to address the firefighters before hearing her sentence, telling them she is haunted by what happened.

    "I'm so, so sorry," she said to the group, which included Theodore Scardino and Joseph Hofstetter, who were wounded by Spengler as they responded to the home he shared with his 67-year-old sister, Cheryl. "I'm sorry for the people whose lives have been affected."

    Because of the gunfire, firefighters could not extinguish the fire, leaving it to spread and destroy six additional homes in the Lake Ontario community. Cheryl Spengler's body was found in the ashes. She had been shot in the head.

    Nguyen's federal prison sentence will run concurrent with a 1 1/3- to 4-year sentence she began serving earlier this year on related state charges.

    "There is nothing that happened in court here today that will bring back the deceased firefighters who died trying to save the community on Christmas Eve, nor relieve the pain that the families will continue to suffer, not only every holiday season, but day in and day out as they continue to live with the consequences that this defendant, Dawn Nguyen, started in 2010," U.S. Attorney William Hochul said outside the courthouse, where he had sought a 10-year sentence.

    West Webster Fire Department spokesman Al Sienkiewicz was unmoved by Nguyen's apology.

    "You're at that point in time when you say whatever you can say to save yourself," he said.

    Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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    Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

    FDNY Tests Firefighter, Radio Tracking System

    U.S. Navy Research Laboratory and FDNY work on project to track firefighters better
    Fire Department New York uses a U.S. Naval Research Laboratory (NRL) system to automatically track firefighters. "That's the intention with this device, to make sure everyone's accounted for," says David DeRieux, one of the inventors. Left: NRL worked with firefighters to determine where to add the RFID pocket. Right: The truck's onboard computer displays a table of who, based on their unique RFID tags, is nearby. (U.S. Naval Research Laboratory photo)
    Published Monday, September 15, 2014

    On 15 of its vehicles, Fire Department New York (FDNY) now can automatically see which firefighters are nearby from the onboard computer, and relay that information to the city's Operations Center. The system was invented by David DeRieux of the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory (NRL) Space Systems, along with Michael Manning of Manning RF, and in close partnership with FDNY.

    Since the 9/11 terrorist attacks, New York City has been pursuing ways to better coordinate the 14,000 firefighters and emergency response it employs. (Prior to 9/11, the FDNY used a paper/carbon-copy ride list--Battalion Form 4 (BF4)--to account for who's present.)

    NRL's system is based on an active radio frequency identifier (RFID) tag carried by each firefighter, similar to E-ZPass or how retail tracks inventory. "It's in a little sealed plastic--it looks like a little key fob, actually," says George Arthur, an NRL engineer who contributed to the project. "They're positioned over the left breast, inside the bunker coat in a little Kevlar pocket that's sewn in there. And it just sends out a little ping every five seconds: here I am, here I am, here I am."

    A radio receiver on the vehicle picks up the pings and builds a table of identifiers. "It just listens and says, 'Okay, 1234, that's Jessica Smith,' so we know Jessica Smith is nearby," says DeRieux. "Periodically, a program that's running on their MDT [mobile data terminal], their onboard computer, quizzes this reader and says, 'Let me have everything.'"

    The table of every firefighter on or near the vehicle is displayed on the MDT screen. "As soon as [the driver] turns the ignition on," says DeRieux, "this thing comes up. When they get on the scene, everyone takes off, they all disappear. Then eventually they come back for a roll call situation, and the captain can tell instantly everyone is within so many feet of the truck."

    The MDT also sends this accounting to the FDNY Operations Center in Brooklyn, using a commercial modem. "They actually have a massive display, twice the size of my wall," says DeRieux, "and on there this data gets projected. So they know what truck just showed up on scene, who was on the truck." To coordinate personnel during a city-wide disaster, this real-time information would be unimaginably valuable. "During 9/11 there were thousands of firefighters, it was a big problem," says DeRieux.

    The data is also archived. "If there were a HAZMAT release," says Arthur, "they could go back and immediately see the firefighters that were on duty."

    On April 23rd, the Federal Laboratory Consortium awarded NRL for Excellence in Technology Transfer. "Technology transfer is very important," says Arthur. "Doing things here [at NRL] that are beneficial, not just to the warfighter, but also to the average citizen."

    Firefighters gave feedback to NRL throughout development

    NRL worked closely with FDNY throughout the years of development. "They gave us very good feedback," says Arthur. "They'd say, 'That's kind of what I want, but can you do this and can you change that?' They pretty much knew what they wanted and that was just all the difference in the world."

    They also had the opportunity to spend time in New York getting to know the firefighters and their needs, and see them in action. "They're an impressive bunch to talk to, very big-hearted," says Arthur. "There's one guy, Chief [of Logistics Ronald] Spadafora, who's got this thick Brooklyn accent, rides a Harley to work. Well he's got two Masters degrees, he flies all over the world [giving] lectures on fire science. He's written a couple books."

    The relationship started with a fortuitous meeting in 2002. "I recognized the guy next to me," says DeRieux. "Turns out, his name was [Battalion Chief] Joe Pfiefer." Pfiefer was the first chief to take command on 9/11. "[Pfiefer] brings me into his office and he says, 'We've got a problem. We need a way to keep track of our firefighters. Worse yet, some firefighters, who become dazed and confused during an operation, may not make it out of the building, or they end up in the wrong area for roll call.'"

    NRL's system was needed so the other truck would be able to automatically relay through the Operations Center, "He's over at Engine number whatever so he's all right," says DeRieux. "That's the intention with this device, to make sure everyone's accounted for."

    Working with FDNY led to an unexpected spin-off: the city liked the program's interface so much, they asked NRL to make a similar drag-and-drop program they could use to schedule personnel assignments. Says Arthur, "Now EBF4 is the standard scheduling tool New York City uses for their firefighters. NRL wrote it."

    NRL got "easy to use, reliable, and cheap" hardware from industry

    One of FDNY's primary requirements, says Arthur, was, "It has to be easy to use, reliable, and cheap."

    So DeRieux turned to Michael Manning, who had a private company already working on RFID, to provide the hardware for NRL's program. Says Arthur, "All the hardware came off the shelf; the secret sauce is the software. Anybody can go out and buy the RFID components, but if they don't have our program it's just a bunch of dumb computer parts."

    Using all off-the-shelf hardware kept costs low. "The readers cost around $1,100 a piece in the quantities we buy them, that might come down a bit," says Arthur. "The tags cost about $20 a piece."

    The tags are active RFID; so, unlike passive RFID, the batteries will run out in three to four years, depending on how often they're programmed to transmit. But active gives greater range and the ability to transmit more data. Says Arthur, "If you used the same amount of equipment, you could conceivably load it with the oxygen the guy had left, the temperature in the area."

    Is the future to track personnel moving inside a building?

    "We have given them the piece that lets them track from the vehicle to the fireground or the event," says Arthur. "If we could drop in a complementary piece, where we could track firefighters while they're in the building, that would save so many lives."

    "Indoor tracking," says DeRieux, "it's a very tough nut to crack."

    NRL's system is simply, "I detect a signal or I don't"--but an indoor system would need to pin a precise point in three-dimensional space. "I've always said down to six inches," says Arthur, "because that's the approximate width of a wall. You don't want to track a firefighter only to find yourself on the wrong side of a wall."

    The tracking systems Arthur's reviewed start at a known, fixed point, then uses sensors to estimate where you've gone. "Gyroscopes know which direction you're moving and there are movement sensors that estimate how fast you're moving. An altimeter tells whether you've gone up or down in the building."

    He adds, "But the problem is chaos." Say the system is accurate plus or minus an inch on each step. The firefighter's first step from the known point is accurate within an inch; but the second step is plus or minus an inch based on a guess that was also plus or minus an inch. "And the longer you're out walking around," says Arthur, "the more those inaccuracies compound."

    Additionally, the firefighters may be behind metal walls, they may be 100 floors up from a data receiver, and an altimeter may not give reliable data "because in a building that's on fire you're going to have all kinds of changes in air pressure."

    A separate avenue of research, particularly if NRL were to put a new system in another city or perhaps aboard a naval ship to track fire control teams, would focus on improving the hardware. "We started implementing this system in 2007," says Arthur, "and everything's come a long ways since then." Today, there are passive RFID tags that, unlike FDNY's system, can last indefinitely. They're also ruggedized and wouldn't have to be removed before laundering.

    Be it for U.S. Marines or firefighters, for talking to spacecraft or talking to Brooklyn, NRL is a place where engineers solve problems. Says Arthur, "I'm kind of a nuts and bolts guy. I'm an engineer who can change a tire. I like to fix things, take things apart."

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    Copyright 2011 Lexus Nexus. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
    FDNY Honors the 343

    New Yorkers Struggle with Effects of 9/11

    Thousands continue to struggle with effects of terror attack many years later
    Firefighter Tom Engel with Ladder 133 plays Taps at the end of memorial observances on the 13th anniversary of the Sept. 11 terror attacks on the World Trade Center in New York, Thursday, Sept. 11, 2014. Family and friends of those who died read the names of the nearly 3,000 people killed in New York, at the Pentagon and near Shanksville, Pennsylvania. (AP Photo/The Daily News, Robert Sabo, Pool)
    Published Friday, September 12, 2014

    NEW YORK (AP) — The roar of a plane above Lower Manhattan. The rise of a pristine tower where ruins once smoldered. News of terrorist attacks in far-off lands.

    For New Yorkers in or near the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001, the sights and sounds of everyday life can still — even 13 years later — trigger painful memories.

    Thousands of people continue to struggle with the effects of 9/11. And they're coming forward for treatment in droves, seeking a way out of recurring nightmares, self-isolation and substance abuse through a nine-year-old program that's in danger of closing if Congress doesn't extend funding next fall.

    In the last year alone, more than 1,100 people have signed up for services through the city hospital system's World Trade Center Environmental Health Center for people who lived or worked within 1½ miles of ground zero. Nearly half the program's 7,735 patients enrolled in the past five years.

    "Even though it's 13 years later, we're really appreciating that there's a long wake and legacy of the World Trade Center disaster," said Dr. Nomi Levy-Carrick, the program's mental health director.

    FRM/FFN: Nation Pauses to Remember the Fallen

    About 60 percent of patients in the program show symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety or depression attributed to 9/11, administrators say, and about 40 percent have sought treatment for a mental health condition.

    The delayed enrollment is a byproduct of recent outreach efforts and the apparent reluctance of survivors to bring attention to their psychological trauma.

    "There was tremendous survivor guilt," Levy-Carrick said. "So people who survived didn't feel worthy of wanting to seek care. The fact that they had survived, they felt, should have been enough."

    She said people who tried moving on despite the lingering psychological effects of 9/11 realized they weren't getting better.

    Rebecca Lazinger's awakening came in 2010.

    The trauma of the attacks — her ears blowing out as American Airlines Flight 11 slammed into the north tower, a man screaming seconds when he was crushed by falling debris, and the flood of Morgan Stanley co-workers evacuating as she lay in shock on a lobby floor — sapped her of emotion and turned the rest of her 20s into a "sludge" of eating, drinking and vague memories.

    Lazinger, now 36, would joke with friends that she was dead inside.

    "I didn't know what was going to happen to me, or if my life was going to be just one big fuzzy mess," Lazinger said.

    Finally, after fits and starts with private doctors and an outpatient psychiatric clinic, she found the World Trade Center Environmental Health Center, where she entered therapy and started taking medication to mitigate her symptoms.

    She had cried over 9/11 a handful of times in private. The first time she cried in front of another person came a few minutes into her first session with one of the center's social workers.

    "That was an enormous breakthrough for me," Lazinger said. "It was like, I'm home. Like I'm in a place that understands me, and that can help me."

    The treatment program, funded through the federal James L. Zadroga 9/11 Compensation Act, carries no out-of-pocket costs and is available regardless of insurance or immigration status. The act's funding component for health services is scheduled to expire in October 2015.

    A group of New York legislators said this week they would introduce bills in the House and the Senate to extend funding for another 25 years.

    Just one more year of treatment, Lazinger said, isn't enough.

    "I can't be the only one like this," she said. "There are more people that would just be crumbling again. This is saving my life right now."

    ___

    Online:

    New York City Health and Hospitals http://www.nyc.gov/html/hhc/html/home/home.shtml

    ___

    To enroll in the New York City program, call 1-888-982-4748

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