Above is video from Ron Roberts of Monday's apartment fire in Levittown, Pennsylvania (Bucks County) where a pregnant woman and her young daughter were found dead. Police report both had been stabbed. Below is radio traffic from Philly FireFeed.
In my career I have seen a fair amount of tension at times between law enforcement and the fire service, particularly over who is in charge. But I am not sure I have witnessed anything quite like the press release that came out early this morning from Sheriff Terry Maketa in El Paso County, Colorado. Sheriff Maketa sent the release in reaction to remarks made by Black Forest Fire Chief Bob Harvey who told a reporter for KRDO-TV last night that the Black Forest wildfire in June "was human caused and appears intentional".
In the release, Sheriff Maketa warned that we should not "buy into" Chief Harvey's "unqualified knee jerk claims". Maketa says Harvey's "comments are nothing more than an attempt to mislead the public and a mere witch hunt". He concludes the release by saying, "Chief Harvey's comments are reckless, irresponsible and lack what is in the best interests of the community following this tragedy". Read the entire press release below.
It's rare for law-enforcement officials to release statements after midnight — and rarer still when the purpose of those statements is to tear one of their peers a new one.
But that's what happened at 12:30 a.m. this morning, when El Paso County Sheriff Terry Maketa issued a rant accusing Black Forest Fire Chief Bob Harvey of irresponsibility when saying this year's incredibly destructive Black Forest fire appeared to have been intentionally set.
EL PASO COUNTY SHERIFF TERRY MAKETA FINDS REMARKS MADE BY FIRE CHIEF DISTURBING
Sheriff Terry Maketa was shocked to see recent reports in the local news media where Black Forest Fire Chief Harvey was quoted concerning the active investigation into the cause of the Black Forest Fire. On more than one media source, Chief Harvey was quoted as saying the cause of the fire had been determined to be “intentional”.
Sheriff Maketa offered these comments concerning the inappropriate remarks.
“Do not buy into Chief Harvey's claims until it's confirmed by the actual agency that has been the lead of the investigation and will base its findings on indisputable scientific evidence that can withstand the scrutiny of the criminal justice system. Right now that isn't the case. His comments are nothing more than an attempt to mislead the public and a mere witch hunt. Numerous national experts and federal resources have been involved in this investigation and have not and cannot substantiate Chief Harvey's unqualified knee jerk claims. "Human caused" has been known for a long time but this Chief is not involved in the investigation nor qualified to offer legal and scientific evidence. He does not know the point of origin and has been less than truthful about other circumstances with this disaster and just may be merely covering his own mishandling of this event in an attempt to avoid responsibility for allowing the fire to get out of hand. Furthermore, this Chief didn't even know homes were burning at a time several were engulfed and never even requested evacuations of nearby households as the fire rapidly grew out of control, clearly placing citizen’s safety in jeopardy. It's an injustice that he has chosen to jump to these unjustified and inconclusive assumptions without any effort to coordinate with local investigative authorities that have expended extensive resources to identify the cause and manner of this serious tragedy. Chief Harvey's comments are reckless, irresponsible and lack what is in the best interests of the community following this tragedy.”
WHAM-TV reports that a 1978 fire that killed 10 people at the Greece, New York Holiday Inn and injured 37 others is again a very active case. Greece Police Chief Todd Baxter says he wants justice to be served.
Recently the police department searched the Greece Ridge Fire Department and the offices of Fire Chief Bud Phillips. Phillps was off duty the night of the fire. At the time he said he was driving by, saw the flames and called for help. The police chief told WHAM-TV what they found was "pretty significant" and there is now a 50/50 chance of solving the case. Click here to watch the story.
Below is some earlier news coverage about the fire investigation that includes a 1978 interview with Bud Phillips.
"I am surprised because I believe the truth is in the statements of the witnesses that night," said Greece Ridge Fire Chief Bud Phillips. "I think 35 years is a long time."
"I understand why people don't want to help people now – but as I've told all of our people: if they found themselves in the same position that they would do the exact same thing, and I would do that exact same thing today," said Phillips.
Sources tell us police took the hard drive from Chief Phillips' computer.
"The stuff they took from here I think most of the stuff they already had," said Phillips.
Phillips told us police also took the department's annual yearbook and 85th anniversary year book that has a section about the fire.
Two firefighters suffered minor injuries as fires plagued the city of Detroit overnight during the annual Angels’ Night anti-arson campaign, officials said.
“The city was pretty busy,” Detroit Fire Department Senior Chief Larry Gassel said this morning, estimating the city typically experiences five to 10 working structure fires on an average night.
That compares to 36 fires set between 6 p.m. Thursday through 7 a.m. today, according to unofficial Detroit Fire figures released this afternoon. Since the day the Angels’ Night anti-arson campaign began, the department has handled 58 suspicious or undetermined fires from 12:01 a.m. Oct. 29 to 7 a.m. today, according to a source at the Detroit Fire Department.
One firefighter suffered a minor neck injury when a tree branch fell, and the other suffered minor burns overnight, Gassel and Arson Unit Lt. Dennis Richardson said this morning.
No residents were injured, despite two suspicious fires in occupied homes on the city’s west side.
Above is security camera video and below is a bystander’s pre-arrival video of an explosion at a Sydney, Australia supermarket. The blast occurred after gasoline was poured inside the front door and set on fire yesterday morning. The two most seriously injured are the accused arsonist and a man who lived in a second floor apartment.
Police will allege in court that a man caught on CCTV skulking around the front of a Wentworthville shop moments before it spectacularly exploded on Tuesday morning was the shop’s owner, Mr Jomaa, a person eight people risked their lives to save.
The 36-year-old, who broke both his legs, injured his pelvis and neck, and received burns to his face in the explosion, was refused bail at a bedside hearing at Royal North Shore Hospital yesterday.
Police will allege Mr Jomaa bought 10 litres of petrol in a red plastic jerry can from the BP Service Station across the road from his shop at 4.10pm on Monday.
CCTV footage seized from the neighbouring Wentworthville Hotel shows a man carrying a jerry can of petrol into the building then walking around the corner as a police car passes by.
Soon after, the building explodes and collapses, and police and firefighters heroically run in to drag Mr Jomaa free from rubble and the flames. Specialist forensic sniffer dogs later allegedly detected the remnants of petrol in the smouldering rubble on Station St.
Syris Persia, who was asleep upstairs when the building exploded, remained in Westmead Hospital with back injures yesterday. The CCTV footage shows him climbing out of the smoke and rubble to sit, stunned, on the footpath. Eight police officers were treated for treatment for burns and smoke inhalation, while another officer was treated for severe smoke inhalation.
All were later discharged.
Police Association president Scott Weber said the officers, who repeatedly went into the fire only to be turned back by searing flames, were true heroes.
“These are true police heroes, we are proud of them,” Mr Weber said.
Police say the arsonist used a passcode to access the station’s back door. But was it an inside job?
James Joerg was one of the first volunteer firefighters on scene. Sunday he told Channel 3 News how frustrated he was by the crime.
“If somebody calls for help tomorrow I don’t know what we’re going to do.” Joerg said at the time. “We’re hoping that the insurance will help us out but 90-percent loss is unbelievable.”
Prior to the blaze Joerg was soliciting equipment donations from Boston and New Jersey upset the department’s newest pumper was from 1976. This arson was just another blow.
“We’re just devastated by this because we have limited resources here now everything is gone by one person,” Joerg said.
Police now say that one person is James Joerg. The 45-year-old firefighter is charged with second degree arson and reckless endangerment. Allegations he denied in court.
He later confessed from the hospital after being admitted for an unknown illness. He told police he ripped down the smoke detectors — turned the stove on high — ignited cardboard — and tossed the burning paper into one of the fire trucks.
This is not Joerg’s first brush with the law. In 2008, police say he reported being shot during a gun sale in Morgan. He was later charged with making a false report after police discovered he made up the story and shot himself in the arm.
And in 1999, Joerg’s Holland home burned down, killing his father-in-law. That blaze was initially blamed on the 73-year-old falling asleep with a cigarette, but now state police investigators say there are going to take a fresh look at Joerg’s entire history.
“When we seen flames coming out of engine one, we knew we had problems,” said Albany Volunteer Fire Chief Donald Peters.
The station was engulfed in flames in a matter of minutes. Later that morning, firefighters said fighting their own fire was a challenge — as their equipment burned inside.”You know everything’s right there to fight the fire but you just can’t get to it,” said Albany Fire Asst. Chief Josh Pilbin.
“We did get this door open. The only thing we had to fight the fires was fire extinguishers and we used them up,” Chief Peters said.
Firefighters from Craftsbury, Irasburg and Orleans rushed over to help knock out the fire that left engine one completely destroyed. “It’s a truck we’ve had since the 70′s — it was ordered brand new,” Chief Peters said.
And it’s not just the station that has been devastated. Police say it appears the fire was intentionally set.
Albany firefighters responded to an activated smoke alarm at their fire station on Main Street about 1:15 a.m., Detective Sgt. David Sutton said.
Fire Chief Donald Peters Sr. said one fire truck was in flames. The flames spread within the fire station, police said. Then the quandary came into play: Everything was so hot, and darkened with the smoke, the firefighters couldn’t get into the building to get their equipment to put out the blaze.
Doors eventually were smashed. Fire extinguishers near the door were used to contain some flames, while mutual aid responded from volunteer fire departments in Craftsbury, Irasburg and Orleans.
Peters said several neighbors reported they heard a four-wheel sport vehicle leave the station shortly before it was engulfed in flames. Neighbors described it as a dark-colored vehicle and it headed south on Vermont 14.
A Williamsport man who was charged with intentionally setting fire to a vacant two-story house Wednesday on North Artizan Street in Williamsport was charged in 2012 with wielding a knife and threatening to burn down Hagerstown, according to police and prosecutors.
Daniel Alfred Lavasseur, 57, of 49 N. Potomac St., Apt. 2 in Williamsport, was charged in Wednesday’s fire with one count each of second-degree arson, first-degree malicious burning and malicious destruction of property valued at more than $500, according to court documents.
Martin Pang, the arsonist who set a 1995 warehouse fire that killed four Seattle firefighters, was positioning himself for an after-prison “life of luxury” through two schemes hatched behind bars, according to Seattle police — one to steal the identities of witnesses against him and a second to siphon millions of dollars from the Tulalip Resort Casino.
Police said Tuesday that Pang, 57, engineered an elaborate identity-fraud scheme with an alleged accomplice on the outside that focused on stealing the identities of firefighters, police officers and witnesses who played a role in his criminal case.
The two are also accused of plotting to set up phony vendor accounts to steal from the Marysville casino, where Pang’s alleged accomplice, Charles McClain, once worked.
According to Pugel, Pang had birth dates and Social Security numbers of fire and police personnel from training records that were included in discovery materials turned over by prosecutors as part of the manslaughter case. State law has since changed, allowing agencies to redact Social Security numbers from such records, he said.
Martin Pang set the fire at Mary Pang frozen food warehouse burned in 1995. While fighting the fire, Seattle firefighters Walter Kilgore, Gregory Shoemaker, James Brown and Randy Terlicker plunged to their deaths when the floor collapsed.
In March, the Washington State Department of Corrections learned Pang and a man outside of prison planned to set up credit accounts in the names of firefighters and others, then send the money to off-shore bank accounts.
An undercover detective was able to connect with the pair before Pang and his partner, Charles McClain, could put their plan into action.
Authorities arrested McClain. While searching Pang’s cell, they also found evidence including social security numbers of witnesses and the personal information of firefighters in Pang’s case.
After arresting McClain, a search of Pang’s prison cell turned up a list of the names and social security numbers of 20 witnesses in Pang’s 1995 arson case. Investigators also found evidence he had recently accessed records through his attorney with personal information of firefighters involved in his case.
“The latest allegations bring back painful memories for the families of the four firefighters who died in the line of duty and for the Seattle firefighters,” said Seattle Fire Chief Gregory Dean.
Pang, scheduled for release in 2018, could face another five years in prison if convicted and lose significant “good behavior time,” accumulated while serving his sentence.
A Compton firefighter is expected to appear in court Friday to face charges he allegedly set his fire department’s headquarters ablaze in an effort to destroy evidence of his suspected theft.
A former deputy chief, Melanson was taken into custody in connection with a suspicious fire at the Compton Fire Department Headquarters on Dec. 11, 2011.
Investigators believe Melanson stole thousands of dollars in Motorola radios from his employer and sold them online. Then, authorities said, the 15-year veteran of the department is suspected of setting fire to the department headquarters to destroy the evidence.
Marcel Melanson, 37, was arrested at his home. Melanson, who was a member of the Compton Fire Department for over 15 years, is accused of setting a fire at the headquarters of the Compton Fire Department in December of 2011 to destroy evidence of a theft.
“As the investigation unfolded, we began to realize that they were connected, and we realized that the fire itself was a mask to try to cover up the fact that the radios were missing,” said Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department Spokesman Steve Whitmore.
The radios were in storage, to be used for a communications upgrade in connection with a now abandoned plan to re-establish Compton’s police department.
Prince George’s County Firefighters and Paramedics were alerted to an apartment fire with people trapped in New Carrollton this evening.
Fire/EMS units were dispatched at around 7:45 pm, Sunday and arrived at a 3-story/front 4-story rear garden style apartment building in the 7600 block of Fontainebleau Drive with fire showing from a top floor, rear of the building, apartment.
Firefighters initiated a search for trapped occupants and stretched hose lines to initiate an attack on the fire.
The fire was knocked down in about 15 minutes and a deceased adult was located in the apartment of origin.
A person jumped from a rear side top floor balcony and landed about 40 feet below sustaining massive upper body trauma. That adult was transported to a trauma center where they were pronounced deceased.
No other occupants were found in the building and no other civilian or firefighter injuries were reported.
Approximately 50 residents in the building of origin and buildings attached may suffer displacement. The County Citizen Services Unit and the Red Cross will be assisting those residents that need temporary housing.
The cause of the fire is suspicious and is being jointly investigated by Fire Department Investigators as well as the County Police.
As per standard procedure, the County Police will take the lead in this investigation, including the release of any additional information. Fire Investigators will continue to search for the cause and origin.
On December 14 we showed you video from DecaturCrimes of a house fire in the 1800 block of N. Maple Street in Decatur, Illinois. DecaturCrimes was back at the same house around 1:00 this morning for another fire. Note the arson tips sticker posted to the burning home at 2:34 in the video.
The cause of the fire that tore through a vacant house on Kensington Avenue late Thursday night is under criminal investigation, Fire Marshal Steve Trella said Friday.
It was the fourth major fire in a vacant building within roughly a one-mile radius since May, but fire officials say the latest blaze did not fit the same pattern as the other three. Vacant properties, however, continue to be a concern, officials said.
Audio from firefighterdispatch of this evening’s explosion in the 17100 block of Lamont in Detroit that injured four firefighters. This is the same neighborhood where six homes burned at the same time in a three block area Tuesday night. Two of those homes that burned were on Lamont Street (see video and read details from Tuesday). The video below is from BoxAlarmDetroit.
Firefighters were responding to a small house fire on Lamont at the time of the incident. Two of the firefighters went into the home to check if it was occupied when the explosion happened, according to fire officials.
Officials say the two other firefighters that were injured were standing outside of the home.
Sources tell 7 Action News the four firefighters received second degree burns and at least one sustained cuts from exploding debris.
The firefighters were taken to Detroit Receiving Hospital with minor burns and cuts and are expected to be OK, Executive Fire Commissioner Donald Austin said.
He said firefighters were extinguishing a fire at the house when the explosion occurred around 9 p.m. “(It) appears to be a natural gas leak,” Austin said, stressing that the cause remains under investigation.
“The fire department, they got here… real quick and three of them went inside. There was one on the outside. Then the house just exploded,” said Brian Dunn. “House just collapsed on the three firemen and the other fireman got knocked in the street, and then the rest of the firemen (rushed) in there and went to help the other guys and then they took them away in an ambulance.”
A worker was in the house at the time of the initial fire. He got out safely.
News reports indicate there have been at least 30 suspicious structure and vehicle fires Detroit over the past day, with 11 occurring overnight. BoxAlarmDetroit has video from what turned out to be three separate firegrounds in about a three block area as six vacant dwellings burned last night starting around 9:45 PM. The first dispatch was for Hasse and Nancy. Here’s some of the description with the video:
First arriving company reported three dwellings going, and a short time later, reported an additional fire two blocks away in a dwelling on Lamont Street. A second box was dispatched to the scene; while enroute, a third box was requested for another vacant dwelling burning on Healy Street, located in between the two fires already dispatched. Due to miscommunications it was nearly 30 minutes before a third box alarm was sent for the fire on Healy.
Rumley had said earlier that he went to the building to do a work order when the tenant smelled smoke. Rumley, who said he is a former volunteer firefighter, said he knocked on the door of every apartment on the second floor, telling people to get out.
Rumley went through the first floor, making certain that every person and every pet was out of the apartments, he said. If there was no answer at the door, he went inside.
“I have a master key,” Rumley said. “If I knocked on the door and no one comes, I’m going to open the door. I may get in trouble, but it’s better than the alternative.”
Ed Malik of Mabas21.com is reporting four or five vacanr homes burning this morning at the same time in Gary, Indiana. Here’s part of the description with the first video (above):
Gary Engine 13 was dispatched to a reported brush fire at 26th and Mount, they found heavy smoke in the air from a distance. On arrival a fully involved house was found and the fire was upgraded to a still response. The house was so well involved crews grabbed a hydrant and hit the building with a deck gun until additional support arrived.
Here’s what Ed says about his second video (below):
While crews were cleaning up from a fully involved house that came in as a brush fire reports flooded in for multiple structures on fire around 26th and 28th on Clark Road. Crews found multiple vacant houses fully engulfed in flames and access to these houses was very difficult. Crews requested mutual aid from several departments to assist on the fires. One house collapsed at the 3:50 mark as I was recording because the fire department just could not gain access. You can see in the video where I pan down the dark road to the glow of the second fire.
Centralia City Firefighters say the home was fully engulfed in fire upon their arrival. All three shifts of firefighters were called in to battle the blaze. Part of the rear of the two story home collapsed while the rest of the home was gutted. Fire officials say this is at least the second and possibly the third time the home has been on fire.
Bing’s announcement comes just hours after firefighters fought about 16 fires on the city’s east side overnight and early morning. One firefighter was injured in one of the fires. Fires were reported in mostly vacant buildings in the areas of Moran and Medbury, Mt. Elliot and Warren, Hancock and McDougall, Erskine and Chene and Chene and Ferry.
The fire department has 1,257 employees, including 881 firefighters and 248 EMS technicians. According to the city, the department responds to 30,000 fire calls annually, plus 135,000 EMS calls.
In responding to Monday’s layoff announcement, Dan McNamara, President of the Detroit Fire Fighters Association, fired back saying, “These decisions are indefensible”.
“Mayor Bing is now calling for $23 million in cuts from the Detroit Fire Department. In the agreement they backed out of, we proposed up to $31 million in real savings including significant give backs and necessary restructuring, with no layoffs and only closing six fire companies permanently”, said McNamara.
McNamara hopes the city reconsiders the layoffs because he says Detroit’s Fire Department is already a couple hundred fire fighters short of what should be their minimum staffing level.
“We used to tell everybody in the city that if you call us we’ll be there and we don’t know if it’s going to be that way anymore,” said McNamara.
“In fact, if you want a good city — a city where people are gonna live, people are gonna recreate, people are gonna visit you have to have them know they’re safe,” he said. “And with the reductions with us, EMS and fire, it’s just not going to be seen that way.”
Statement from Mayor Dave Bing:
Since I became Mayor, I’ve made public safety my top priority and I’ve said I would protect the jobs of police and firefighters, but fiscal realities have made this untenable.
With my administration continuing to work to fiscally stabilize the City and with recent cuts to the City’s budget, we’re announcing the layoffs of 164 Detroit Fire Department firefighters by the end of July. But my administration has every expectation of being awarded a federal grant to fund and restore 108 of those positions. And many, if not most, of the remaining 56 firefighters are expected to be recalled to the fire department through attrition.
The current 2012-2013 budget also allows for the hiring of Emergency Medical Technicians to bolster the number of EMS staff who responded to 135,000 calls each year, or 81% of the calls to Fire Department.
Until the Fire Department receives the grant, Commissioner Don Austin and his staff have developed a plan to effectively and efficiently maintain the highest levels of fire service for the city’s citizens.
Among the components of the plan:
Better deploying engines from adjacent sectors and using newly installed GPS systems in the engines and rigs to best dispatch fire department personnel;
Conducting thorough risks/gain analysis of interior versus exterior fire suppression;
Increase the use of CERT & Fire Corps to support our firefighters;
And continuing our community fire prevention education.
Again, laying off any of our courageous and dedicated public safety personnel is the last thing I want to do at this point, but I have to face this hard reality. I have every confidence in Commissioner Austin and the men and woman of the Fire Department to maintain their highest standards of fire services and public safety for our citizens.
Eleven fires sent flames and smoke into the sky early Monday morning at several buildings in the area of Chene and Ferry. Most of the buildings to burn were vacant, but one was a church and at least one had people living inside it.
Take a moment to read this entire article from Laurie Merill from the Arizona Republic about the forced retirement of the chief and assistant chief of the Tempe Fire Department in Arizona. It tells of efforts to keep the story of a suspicious fire at a firefighters home out of the news media. The firefighter was also later accused of assaulting the assistant chief the night of the fire.
If their goal was to keep the story a secret it obviously did not work. It has now made the news in a big way and resulted in a shake up at the top of the department. Here’s an excerpt:
Tempe’s fire chief and assistant fire chief retired from their posts last month after an independent investigation found they had committed serious errors during a suspicious fire at the home of a firefighter in their department, according to city officials and documents obtained by The Arizona Republic.
The report ended the careers of Assistant Fire Chief Marc Scott, a 34-year veteran, and Fire Chief Mark Simmons, a 31-year veteran. They retired in May after the city manager confronted them with the findings of the investigation.
According to the report by Scottsdale, which was asked to conduct an independent investigation to avoid a possible conflict, Scott and Simmons were more concerned about avoiding a media event than in obtaining justice.