FDNY Battles 7-Alarm Fire in Extreme Cold

Storage warehouse continues to burn in Brooklyn’s Williamsburg neighborhood
Firefighters work to keep down a fire at a warehouse in the Brooklyn borough of New York, Sunday, Feb. 1, 2015. Firefighters are still dousing the massive warehouse fire that started Saturday. Fire Department officials say air quality in the Williamsburg section has been compromised by the blaze that left one person injured from smoke inhalation. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)
Published Monday, February 2, 2015

NEW YORK (AP) — Giant clouds of smoke rose from a 7-alarm fire that destroyed a warehouse and floated across Brooklyn and into Manhattan on Saturday — a day so cold that water trickling across the helmets of a small army of firefighters quickly froze.

One person standing outside the building as firefighters did their work was treated for smoke inhalation at the scene but refused further treatment, authorities said.

About 275 firefighters stayed on the fire's perimeter, training streams of water at flames and smoke fueled by paper inside the storage facility in the Williamsburg neighborhood.

"The building is a total loss," said James Leonard, chief of department for the Fire Department of New York. "We're putting in a tremendous amount of water and yet it's still burning."

Leonard said firefighters were left fighting the elements, both hot and cold.

"It is extremely cold. It is extremely windy," he said. "It's affected our fire operations; it's affected our firefighters."

At a news conference nine hours after the fire was reported at 6:28 a.m., Leonard said firefighters had no choice but to stay outside the four-story building as the fire raged.

"Right now we feel we have the fire contained, but it's going to take an extensive operation to protect all the buildings that are out there," he said.

He said firefighters were concerned that flames could jump to a second building on the same block, which has the same owner and is also a storage warehouse.

The city Health Department issued an advisory late Saturday warning anyone near the fire or downwind of it to stay inside and keep windows closed.

The department said air quality has been affected, and people with respiratory ailments may have difficulty breathing.

The blaze was reported only two hours after firefighters had put out a small fire on a shelving unit in the same building.

Leonard said investigators want to know if the two fires are connected.

"The nature of what happened is under investigation by our fire marshal," he said.

By afternoon, firefighters were being rotated as they coped with strong winds and temperatures so low that ice formed on their helmets.

"This is going to be smoldering for quite some time," Leonard said of the fire. He estimated crews would be at the scene for two to three weeks.

Representatives of CitiStorage, which had operations at the building, did not immediately return calls seeking comment.

Copyright 2015 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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Seven-Alarm Fire Burns Brooklyn Warehouse
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    FDNY Firefighter in Trouble over T-Shirt Slogan

    Firefighter faces possible firing for disobeying order on regulation clothing
    MICHAEL GARTLAND, The New York Post Published Thursday, January 29, 2015

    A T-shirt could cost this firefighter his job.

    A judge has recommended the FDNY sack Brooklyn firefighter Thomas Buttaro for wearing anti-affirmative-action T-shirts to work, creating what she called a hostile work environment.

    "The FDNY is a para-military organization and may restrict a uniformed member's appearance so long as the restrictions are rationally related to the department's legitimate interests," Administrative Law Judge Alessandra Zorgniotti decided.

    She found Buttaro, a 17-year FDNY veteran who earned $111,209 in 2013, disobeyed orders after May 2012 to wear regulation gear and not T-shirts with provocative slogans.

    The judge said Buttaro engaged in a "persistent and long-term pattern of harassment" and was guilty of "repeated acts of insubordination."

    Buttaro, of Ladder Co. 123 in Crown Heights, would wear T-shirts on duty bearing the logo and slogans of Merit Matters, a group opposed to altering the FDNY's admissions test to accommodate minority recruits.

    Speaking through his lawyer, Buttaro said he planned to challenge the judge's findings, which are not binding on the FDNY.

    "We're going to fight this for as long as it takes to get vindicated," said lawyer Adam Weiss. "There are only two sides to the story, and it looks like [the judge] took the prosecution's side of the story and ignored ours."

    The Post first reported in September that Buttaro, who is white, was facing disciplinary charges for wearing a Merit Matters shirt to work.

    The shirts became an issue after Buttaro got into a heated exchange on May 6, 2012, with a black colleague over a suit filed by the Vulcan Society, a fraternal organization of black firefighters that has called the FDNY's hiring practices discriminatory.

    Weiss, Buttaro's lawyer, said he expects Fire Commissioner Daniel Nigro to make a decision on his client's fate in the next month.

    "Obviously, we disagree with the ALJ's decision," he said. "It's a very skewed version of what happened."

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

    Raw Video: Bronx Apartment Fire

    New York Firefighters Urge Purchase of Ladder Truck

    Lancaster firefighters want city to replace their 1978 ladder truck
    KAREN ROBINSON, The Buffalo News Published Wednesday, January 28, 2015

    Lancaster firefighters want a new $1.2 million ladder truck they say is needed to replace a 1978 model.

    Many are anxious, because they say they've been asking to replace it for years.

    But timing and cost remain big issues. Village officials, some of them firefighters, are weighing all of it. Trustees said they are not saying "no" but they also haven't indicated when they'll make a decision.

    "We have to make it fiscally responsible and palatable to the residents," said Trustee William C. Schroeder, a firefighter and former village fire chief.

    For starters, the ladder truck, which would involve the village bonding money to pay for it, is expensive. Government leaders also worry because the village's current debt totals between $3 million and $4 million at a time when the village also was forced to spend about half of its $1.6 million in reserves to pay for $760,000 in November snowstorm expenses.

    The dynamic is triggering friction. Many point out that surrounding communities have ladder trucks that help on mutual aid calls.

    The tallest structure for which the ladder truck would be needed is the 10-story senior tower on West Pleasant Avenue.

    As it considers the purchase of a new fire truck, the Village Board also said it is working on developing a five-year capital project plan to prioritize equipment and building needs.

    "The Fire Department is not being neglected," Schroeder said. "We will replace that truck. It's a matter of when. But we're talking a hell of a lot of money, and we have existing debt."

    Schroeder said the village has never shortchanged the Fire Department. He noted the village spent $150,000 in 2000 to refurbish the ladder truck. Since then, the village has bought eight vehicles for the Fire Department, including pumpers and chief and assistant chief vehicles, he said. Moreover, an estimated $470,000 in still owed on the last pumper that was bought four years ago.

    Fire Chief Joseph M. Ligammare has been urging the Village Board to buy a new ladder truck as quickly as possible to lock in 2014 pricing. Doing so could save $60,000, he said.

    Ligammare noted the Fire Department could pick up the interest payments for a few years on the ladder truck, while also considering that perhaps other village capital equipment purchases could be lumped in with fire apparatus purchases over the next few years. "My goal was to try to bring other alternatives to the table to try to soften the blow to taxpayers."

    He offered to have the Fire Department's budget pay the $11,000 in interest owed in 2016 on a new truck for the first few years and to forgo his $5,200 yearly stipend until the village would begin handling the debt in 2017.

    A supermajority board vote is required; four trustees on the five-member Village Board must vote in favor of it.

    The Fire Department was told under former Mayor William Cansdale's administration that 2017 would be a better time to make such a purchase. Fire officials have continued to lobby Mayor Paul M. Maute, who also is a firefighter.

    "We will make the best decision for the safety of the community and also for the taxpayers," Maute said. "There is a need for a hook and ladder truck. Is there an urgency? I would say yes, but not today. It's not going to break down today."

    email: krobinson@buffnews.com

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    Lexis Nexis
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    Brooklyn Man Dies after Falling During Fire

    Victim falls from fire escape during five-alarm fire
    NATASHA VELEZ and ANTONIO ANTENUCCI, The New York Post Published Friday, January 23, 2015

    A Brooklyn business owner fell to his death trying to flee a devastating fire Wednesday morning, FDNY officials said.

    Seven others were injured in the 3:30 a.m. Prospect Heights blaze, which broke out in the building's ground-floor hardware store at 265 Flatbush Ave., officials said.

    Deli owner Bassam Awad, 46, escaped his fourth-floor apartment - but fell from his fire escape as 250 firefighters battled the five-alarmer for two hours.

    "You literally heard women screaming, 'Help, it's burning,' " said neighbor Veronica Hossain, who called the chaotic scene "heartbreaking."

    "He was a great man, what can I say? He was a great man, I love him very much," his 36-year-old brother, Abdurahman, said, before breaking down in tears.

    Awad's mother was among three people critically injured in the blaze.

    His wife, Ralima, and two sons also suffered burns and were rushed to area hospitals.

    The fire was sparked by faulty electrical wiring on a neon light outside the hardware store, FDNY officials said.

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