FDNY Recognizes Acts of Heroism in Medal Day Ceremony
  • Fire Breaks Out of Manhattan Restaurant

    FDNY battles three-alarm fire at TGI Friday’s near Rockefeller Center
    Firefighters respond to a fire in a building near Rockefeller Center in midtown Manhattan, Friday, June 6, 2014, in New York. The FDNY reported a fire broke out in the basement and ventilation system and witnesses say they saw smoke for several blocks around the building. No injuries were reported. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)
    Published Saturday, June 7, 2014

    NEW YORK (AP) — Flames shot from the roof and smoke clouded the skyline but officials said no one was seriously hurt in a restaurant fire Friday near New York's Rockefeller Center.

    Firefighters brought the blaze under control around 10:30 p.m., about two hours after it broke out in the basement and ventilation system of a TGI Friday's restaurant in midtown Manhattan, the Fire Department of New York said.

    One firefighter sustained a minor injury, according to an FDNY spokesman. The cause of the fire was under investigation.

    Witness Kirby Gargantiel said he watched from a nearby rooftop as smoke grew thicker and darker, turning the air around 48th and 49th streets acrid.

    A photo on Twitter showed flames shooting from the roof of the six-story building. A fire department spokesman said the flames likely came from a vent.

    More than 130 firefighters were called to the scene. The blaze caused traffic delays in the area and transit officials rerouted bus routes.

    According to city records, the building was built in the 1920s and has kitchens in the basement and on the fourth floor. A dining area occupies the first through third floors, with offices on the fifth and sixth.

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    PHOTO GALLERIES

    Classroom-on-Rails Trains Firefighters

    Tank cars and props go on multi-state tour for first responders
    Firefighters and other first responders are familiarized with tank cars on the CSX Safety Train in the Port of Albany on Thursday, June 5, 2014, in Albany, N.Y. The train is equipped with four oil tankers and two classroom cars and is making a whistle stop in Albany as part of a multi-state tour providing enhanced safety training in response to increased shipments of North Dakota crude oil. Albany has become a major hub for shipping the crude oil, which arrives daily in hundreds of tank cars to be shipped down the Hudson River to New Jersey refineries. (AP Photo/Mike Groll)
    Published Friday, June 6, 2014

    ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) — A rolling classroom on rails, complete with four tanker cars and a flatbed rigged with a variety of valves and fittings, made a whistle stop Thursday at the Port of Albany as part of a multi-state tour providing enhanced safety training to first responders in light of increased shipments of North Dakota crude oil.

    The railroad is conducting a three-day training program at Albany's Hudson River port before taking its Safety Train to other cities along a route through Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Indiana and Illinois.

    "The vast majority of the oil we move is on this route," said Skip Elliott, CSX's vice president for environment and safety. "We do anticipate it growing. There's been an energy boom in this country."

    CSX transports crude oil produced in North Dakota's Bakken Shale region to coastal refineries. Elliott said the railroad moves two or three oil trains a day, each with about 100 tanker cars holding 30,000 gallons each. He said that amounts to about one percent of CSX's overall freight traffic.

    While the U.S. oil industry maintains that Bakken crude is no more dangerous than some other cargoes, the federal government issued a safety alert in January warning the public, emergency responders and shippers about the potential high volatility of crude from the Bakken oil patch.

    Oil trains in the U.S. and Canada were involved in at least eight major accidents during the last year, including an explosion of Bakken crude in Quebec that killed 47 people. Other trains carrying Bakken crude have since derailed and caught fire in Alabama, North Dakota, New Brunswick and Virginia.

    "We train thousands of emergency responders each year, but in this tour we've augmented the training to discuss crude by rail," said Carla Groleau, spokeswoman for CSX Transportation.

    Gov. Andrew Cuomo has taken steps to address the danger posed by oil trains, including increasing emergency preparedness training, conducting more inspections of train cars and tracks, and calling for tougher federal regulations. A training exercise with a simulated tanker fire was conducted at the Albany port last month.

    Residents of an apartment complex near the port have voiced concern over the hundreds of oil tanker cars rolling past their homes. Dorcey Applyrs, the Common Council member representing port-area residents, said Thursday that the CSX training program helped calm her fears.

    "We hear a lot of myths and misconceptions about the safety of oil transport," Applyrs said. "I feel more comfortable answering questions from residents now that I know about safety measures that are in place."

    In the CSX program Thursday, 45 firefighters and other emergency responders received classroom instruction on various hazardous materials carried by rail. They had a detailed tour of the Safety Train's locomotive and three types of tank cars, as well as hands-on experience with various types of valves and fittings.

    Elliott pointed out the enhanced safety features of a newer tanker car, including thicker walls, heavy steel shields at the ends to resist punctures, and protective housings to prevent valves from breaking and leaking in a rollover derailment. The Association of American Railroads has recommended stronger federal safety standards for tanker cars, which are owned by shippers and leasing companies, not the railroads.

    "This is all part of the natural evolution of tank car safety," Elliott said.

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    Dozens Injured in Staten Island Fire
  • Dozens Hurt in Staten Island Five-Alarm Fire

    23 firefighters and 11 civilians injured as fire rips through townhouses
    Firefighters battle a fire that tore through three townhouses on New York City's Staten Island early Thursday, June 5, 2014. At least 34 people were injured, including two young children who were tossed out of a smoke-filled second-floor window into the arms of neighbors below, authorities and witnesses said. (AP Photo/Staten Island Advance, Ryan Lavis)
    Published Thursday, June 5, 2014

    NEW YORK (AP) — Fire tore through three townhouses on Staten Island early Thursday, injuring 34 people including two young children who were tossed out of a smoke-filled second-floor window into the arms of neighbors below, authorities and witnesses said.

    About 200 firefighters responded to the blaze that erupted at about 1 a.m. and battled the five-alarm fire for several hours.

    A Fire Department of New York spokesman said 23 firefighters and 11 civilians suffered injuries ranging from minor to serious but none was considered life-threatening. He said the number was expected to climb slightly.

    He said the flames were so heavy that firefighters were unable to say where the fire originated. That would be part of the investigation into what caused the blaze, he said.

    "My life is in there," said Cindy Piscopo, who lived on the first floor of one of the four-family townhouses.

    She said she was awakened by a top-floor neighbor knocking on her door and yelling at her to get out.

    "I saw fire upstairs and flames shooting out of the side of the building" and an adjacent townhouse, she said. "The top floors are gone from both buildings."

    The fire spread to the third building about two hours later, said Piscopo, who escaped safely with her 12-year-old daughter. Firefighters later found her cat behind the building, soaked from the overnight rain.

    A neighbor, Anthony DiSimone, said he and his fiancee, Darleen Cerzosie, helped two young children to safety after seeing a man screaming and dangling his young son from a second-floor window thick with smoke.

    "The father was stuck up there ... he couldn't do anything — black smoke was just billowing out that window," DiSimone told the Staten Island Advance. "So I went underneath — he threw him right to me and I caught his son."

    The man also threw his young daughter to Cerzosie, DiSimone said. The children, believed to be 5 and 3, were treated by emergency officials and seemed to be OK but shaken up, he said. Firefighters were eventually able to get to their father as well, he added.

    ___

    Associated Press video journalist Ted Shaffrey and photographer Kathy Willens contributed to this report.

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    Videos: Fire Destroys Two Buffalo Homes

    Fire in vacant house quickly extends to occupied home
    Fire destroys two homes and damages others on DeWitt Street. (WIVB photo)
    Published Friday, May 30, 2014

    BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) – A powerful overnight fire destroyed two homes on Buffalo’s west side. Residents say they lost everything, but are grateful they have their lives Thursday morning.

    The intense flames started in a vacant home at 3:30 a.m. on DeWitt Street and then spread to a two-family home next door. Both homes were destroyed. The flames were so intense they hit power lines, which started sparking. Firefighters remained on the scene for hours, putting out hot spots.

    Buffalo Fire Commissioner Garnell Whitfield said, “Partial collapse of the exposure building, and a complete collapse of the initial fire building. Also exposures across the street, several houses across the street as you can see are damaged also from the heat of the fire.”

    There are six people that are now displaced, including five adults and one child. Some people involved suffered minor injuries. Two cats and two birds died in the blaze.

    Whitfield says the fire grew because one of the residents in the home had oxygen tanks.

    “Oxygen is very volatile so we had several explosions in those tanks with that structure. It was a defensive fire. Anytime we have oxygen tanks or those kinds of things it makes our job a lot harder.”

    Richard Stevenson’s home was destroyed. He said, “I lost everything, I have nothing, I lost everything.”

    A neighbor says she saw three men fleeing from the vacant house earlier Thursday morning. Another fire sparked at the vacant house last September. The homeowner says authorities weren’t able to determine a cause back then.

    Arlita Mcnamee has been working for weeks to fix up the vacant home, but now she has nowhere to move in to.

    Investigators are following every lead to determine the cause of the blaze, which caused $250,000 in damage.

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    Lloyd Mitchell Photography video,

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    9/11 Museum Opens to Public

    Stark sights and sounds greet general visitors to national museum
    The National 9/11 Flag is carried by firefighters to the 9/11 Memorial Museum after a ceremony at the 9/11 Memorial in New York Wednesday, May 21, 2014. The ceremony Wednesday marked the opening of the National September 11 Memorial Museum. After the flag was refolded, firefighters marched it into the museum. The flag was flying from a building near the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001. It was later found shredded in the debris of ground zero. (AP Photo/Craig Ruttle)
    Published Wednesday, May 21, 2014

    NEW YORK (AP) — There are prominent videos of the twin towers collapsing, photos of people falling from them, portraits of nearly 3,000 victims and voicemail messages from people in hijacked planes.

    But behind the wrenching sights and sounds of the National Sept. 11 Memorial Museum lies a quiet effort to help visitors handle its potentially traumatic impact, from silent spaces and built-in tissue boxes to a layout designed to let people bypass the most intense exhibits.

    Discreet oak-leaf symbols denote items connected to the dead, and the images of falling victims are in an alcove marked with a warning sign. Designers made sure rooms have ample exits, lest people feel claustrophobic in the underground space. And American Red Cross counseling volunteers stood by as the museum opened to the public Wednesday.

    "There's a lot of thought given to the psychological safety of visitors," said Jake Barton, who helped create the exhibits.

    It didn't seem like enough to Lori Strelecki, who was among the first people to tour the museum Wednesday. She said she had seen a visitor crumpled over, crying.

    "Is that something you want to evoke?" asked Strelecki, who runs a historic house museum in Milford, Pennsylvania. "It's too much."

    Dr. Steven Cennamo, a New Jersey dentist, was impressed by the museum's blend of spaciousness and artifacts as intimate as a victim's wallet. Given the singularity of 9/11, "I don't think you can overdo it," he said.

    More than 42,000 9/11 victims' relatives, survivors, rescuers and recovery workers have already visited the museum, which opened to them last Thursday, Executive Director Joe Daniels said.

    It's the latest in a series of memorials-as-museums that seek to honor the dead while presenting a full, fair history of the event that killed them. And the Sept. 11 museum strives to do that at ground zero while the attacks are still raw memories for many.

    Museum planners realized early on the challenge of trying not to shatter people "while at the same time being true to the authenticity of the event," said Tom Hennes, founder of exhibit designer Thinc Design.

    Trauma specialists told museum leaders that sounds of voices and images of hands and faces could be particularly distressing and that visitors should get to choose what to see.

    The goal: "to keep it feeling alive and present without making it so alive and present that it's unbearable," says psychologist Billie Pivnick, who worked with Thinc.

    To allow visitors an emotional breather, silent spaces with few artifacts surround the densely packed historical exhibit that follows the timeline of 9/11, set off by a revolving door. Elsewhere, a room where visitors can call up recorded recollections about individual victims was designed as a quiet sanctum for feelings, with tissue dispensers embedded in the benches and acoustically padded walls, Hennes said.

    The historical exhibit, crafted by another firm, Layman Design, envelops visitors in images, information, objects and sounds, but designers sought to avoid emotional overload.

    Ambient sounds of emergency radio transmissions and victims calling home are interspersed with the calmer tones of survivors recounting the day. The hijackers are included, but carefully, in grainy airport-security video and unobtrusive individual photos.

    Still, the display doesn't shy from large projections of the towers crumbling. "It's a dramatic presentation, but I think it's a dramatic moment," explained Barton, whose firm, Local Projects, handled the multimedia components.

    Other museums have faced difficult choices presenting the horrors of history.

    The U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, for example, decided to display photos of hair shorn from people in death camps, but not the hair itself, and ensconced some graphic film footage in walls too tall for children to see over.

    Beyond content choices, the Sept. 11 museum hopes a human touch can help visitors grapple with their reactions.

    Retired social worker Georgine Gorra helped people find their way around the museum after Thursday's dedication ceremony. They didn't seem traumatized, she said, just tearful.

    "We all were, frankly."

    ___

    Reach Jennifer Peltz on Twitter @jennpeltz.

    ___

    If You Go...

    NATIONAL SEPT. 11 MEMORIAL MUSEUM: Liberty Street and Greenwich Street, New York, 212-266-5211 http://www.911memorial.org. Open daily, 9 a.m. - 8 p.m. Adults: $24; U.S. veterans, college students and seniors, $18; children 7-17, $15; children under 6, free. Free for all visitors from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. Tuesdays. Security screening required.

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

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    Outrage Over 9/11 Museum Gift Shop

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