Fire Department officials on Wednesday announced that seven veteran officers have been censured for their roles in the breakdown of the department’s inspection system in the months before the fatal fire at the former Deutsche Bank building in August 2007.
firefighters — Joseph Graffagnino,
33, and Robert Beddia, 53 — died
fighting the blaze in the building,
which is on the edge of ground zero
and was damaged in the Sept. 11
Officials said two of the men censured, Deputy Chief Richard Fuerch and Capt. Peter Bosco, would be barred from commanding the posts they held at the time of the fire, though they would not be barred from other leadership posts.
Captain Bosco is poised to retire, an official said.
Deputy Chief Fuerch and Captain Bosco have been sidelined since days after the fire when they were relieved of their posts for failing to inspect the former bank building or draw up a specific plan on how to fight a fire inside the contaminated tower.
The two of them and five others — Deputy Chiefs Paul Cresci, John Bley and Roger Sakowich; and Battalion Chiefs Ronald Schmutzler and Robert Norcross — received what the department called a “disciplinary reprimand” that would be a permanent symbol of their failures in days leading to the deadly fire.
Officials said the disciplinary measure would mean there would be no further administrative proceedings against the men. The fire that led to a series of investigations, including a criminal one that culminated in manslaughter charges against three construction supervisors and a subcontractor at the site, a 41-story building that was undergoing a complex, floor-by-floor demolition.
At the time of the fire, Chief Fuerch had been the department’s Division 1 commander and Captain Bosco was the commander of Engine 10, the company adjacent to the former bank building and the one responsible for conducting inspections every 15 days, as are required of all major construction or demolition sites.
The department said that Chief Fuerch was reprimanded “for failing to properly enforce regulations and orders relating to the inspection of buildings” within the boundaries of the division. Captain Bosco was reprimanded “for failing to control and be responsible for the inspection of buildings in his administrative district.”
Chiefs Cresci and Bley were reprimanded for “failing to properly enforce regulations and orders relating to the inspection of buildings” in Division 1; Chief Sakowich was reprimanded for “failing to supervise the inspection of buildings in Battalion 1 and failing to see that all relevant regulations were strictly enforced.”
Chiefs Schmutzler and Norcross were reprimanded for “failing to supervise the inspection of buildings in Battalion 1 and failing to see that all relevant regulations and orders were strictly enforced.”
Originally, when Chief Fuerch and Captain Bosco were singled out by the department — along with John McDonald, the commander of Battalion 1, who has since retired — several people in the union representing those men said they were being treated as scapegoats.
In the fallout over the fire, the Bloomberg administration said it would investigate whether large buildings being built or torn down were being properly inspected by fire companies every 15 days.
But many senior fire chiefs, company commanders and union officials said in interviews that enforcement of the inspection rule was inconsistent at best, particularly in areas with construction booms.
The department’s action comes days after a Department of Investigation report that criticized both the Fire Department and the city’s Department of Buildings for failures in inspecting the site, at 130 Liberty Street, in the months before the fire. The Department of Investigation itself made plain that though the 15-day rule was in place, it was little known.
Its investigation “revealed a culture of widespread disregard for the 15-day rule,” the report said.
It found that members of Engine 10 “did not conduct a single inspection” of 130 Liberty Street since the time worker began demolishing it on March 20, 2007, and the time of the fatal fire five months later.