Gone unchecked for too long

City: Aging fire escapes showing signs of distress, deterioration

Council members say issue has gone unchecked for too long

Updated: 8:40 PM EDT Oct 19, 2016
Cinncinatti Fire Escapes Left for Too Long
 CINCINNATI —Cincinnati City Hall is taking on an issue that council members said has gone unchecked far too long.

Councilman Kevin Flynn said, “This is not something I am willing to delay. This is a necessity.”

According to a memo from the city manager, the aging fire escape inventory in Cincinnati is showing signs of significant distress and deterioration.

Currently there are 40 fire escapes with enforcement orders. In one case, inspectors found the ladder chained and broken cables. City leaders said a new fire escape program will increase the level of safety for citizens.

Inspections must be performed by a professional engineer. It’s estimated it will cost the owner of a small building between $300 and $700 every five years.

Councilwoman Yvette Simpson said, “The people impacted by this are going to pay some fees and we’ll do public engagement so the public will know what these charges are.”

The inspection program will begin next year.

Berkeley Balcony Collapse


CSLB Nearing Completion of Berkeley Balcony Collapse Investigation

CSLB Investigates Deadly Balcony Collapse
April 8, 2016

The Contractors State License Board (CSLB) of California announced this week that its ongoing investigation of last year’s deadly balcony collapse in Berkeley, CA, is nearing a close. The investigation is focused in part on five construction companies that were involved in the building of an apartment complex where the balcony collapsed on June 16, 2015, killing six students and seriously injuring seven others.

The nine-month investigation is nearing completion, with a determination if administrative actions will be recommended against the contractors expected shortly, says the CSLB, which operates under the umbrella of the California Department of Consumer Affairs and licenses and regulates approximately 290,000 contractors in California.

“The main questions we’re trying to answer are if the various contractors involved followed the architectural plans for the balcony, including the use of the proper building materials, and whether workmanship standards were followed.” said David Fogt, CSLB’s Chief of Enforcement, in a recent press release. He says if the contractors did not follow correct plans and procedures then it is “a clear violation of the law,” pointing to Business & Professions Code section 7109.

If CSLB’s investigation determines the licenses should be revoked, cases will be submitted to the California Attorney General’s Office, which will prosecute the cases in the state’s administrative court, said the CSLB in the news release.

A month after the tragic collapse, the city of Berkeley implemented a series of new construction ordinances “to prevent future such events.” According to a June 23 report released by city’s Building and Safety staff, the 4th floor structural collapse of the cantilevered balcony was caused because “the deck joist ends protruding from the exterior wall appeared to be severely dry rotted.”

City inspectors, along with structural engineers from Miyamoto International and WJE Engineers, Architects, Materials Scientists, observed at the accident scene that the joists had completely sheared off approximately 16 to 20 inches from the exterior building face, and they found a torn bituthene membrane hanging over the joist ends.

The five-story, 176-unit Library Gardens apartment building where the balcony failed, was built in 2007.

Based on a June 23 city inspection of the collapsed balcony, the Berkeley City Council on July 15 unanimously approved a series of ordinances for all current and future city buildings. The changes make new balconies and other sealed areas exposed to weather subject to stricter requirements on materials, inspection and ventilation. In addition, the regulations require regular maintenance inspections for all such spaces for future buildings as well as those units already built.

Eric Angstadt, Berkeley planning director, told me in July that with the passage of these resolutions, “Berkeley now has local requirements that not only improve the design and structure of future balconies, but existing properties will also be subject to thorough inspections.”

The new rules state that projections exposed to weather – balconies, landings, decks, stairs and floors – shall be constructed of naturally durable wood, preservative-treated wood, corrosion resistant steel, or similar approved materials.

Other changes to local building codes include laminated timbers and supporting members of permanent fixtures. Glued laminated timbers that form structural supports on a building and are exposed to weather will now have to be pressure treated with a preservative or be manufactured from naturally durable or preservative-treated wood. And wood members that form the structural supports of buildings, balconies, porches or similar permanent building appurtenances that are exposed to the weather must be made with naturally durable or preservative-treated wood.

The new regulations also stipulate that weather exposed enclosed assemblies “shall have cross ventilation for each separate enclosed space by ventilation openings protected against the entrance of rain and snow.”

Berkeley spokesperson Matthai K. Chakko also told me in July that the new ordinances set up an inspection system where balconies will be inspected every three years by certified and qualified individuals, licensed general contractors, structural pest control licensees, licensed architects and engineers.

Who is Legally Responsible for the Balcony Collapse at Berkeley?



There was some emotional testimony Wednesday in Sacramento as lawmakers considered a bill that aims to prevent a repeat of the deadly Berkeley Balcony collapse from last year.

A young woman who spoke emotionally Wednesday was an Irish exchange student in Berkeley for the summer.
RELATED: I-Team: New clues as to why balcony collapsed

Aoife Beary was celebrating turning 21 when the fourth floor balcony collapsed on Kittredge Street right off the UC Berkeley campus in June of last year.

RELATED: EXCLUSIVE: 13 lawsuits filed in deadly Berkeley balcony collapse

Six young people died, including Ashley Donohoe of Rohnert Park and five Irish students.

Their friend and survivor Beary told the Assembly Appropriations Committee Wednesday, due to her traumatic brain injury she can’t go back to college. “I had lacerations to my liver, kidneys and spleen. I had a collapsed lung and broken ribs. I can’t believe why you’re even debating this bill. People died. You should ensure that all balconies are scrutinized in this state to prevent this from happening again,” Beary said.

Senate Bill 465, co-sponsored by Sen. Jerry Hill of San Mateo would increase oversight of contractors.

Following the balcony collapse, officials learned the construction firm that built it had paid more than $26 million in building-related settlements in recent years.

The bill is actually a modified version of a proposal that was defeated last summer.

It must clear the committee by this Friday in order to move forward.

PHOTOS: Several killed in balcony collapse in Berkeley

Click here for full coverage on the deadly Berkeley balcony collapse.

Fire Escape Collapses Alton, IL

Fire escape collapses leaves two trapped, three injured

Recovery continues for victims in fire escape collapse

Man remains in coma, future uncertain

By Linda N. Weller – lweller@civitasmedia.com



ALTON — Three people who fell about 20 feet to the ground Sunday night when a second-floor fire escape platform collapsed Downtown were still recuperating from their injuries Wednesday.

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    Emily Green of Belleville, sister of Tyler Green, 22, who was seriously injured in the fall, posted on the GoFundMe crowdsourcing website that her brother “landed on his head, suffering severe head trauma and multiple skull and facial fractures.”

    She is trying to to raise $25,000 for his medical expenses. As of late Wednesday afternoon, 58 people had donated $3,665 within one day. The funding page can be found at www.gofundme.com/tylergreen?ssid=744687579&pos=1

    “He is currently in a medically induced coma in the ICU, with an unclear future ahead,” she wrote. She said Tyler Green hopes to be a professional singer.

    After the fall, Green was taken by ambulance to OSF Saint Anthony’s Hospital Emergency Department. An ARCH Air Medical Ambulance helicopter then flew him to Barnes-Jewish Hospital in St. Louis.

    Emily Green’s posting says her brother graduated from Southern Illinois University Edwardsville last spring with a bachelor’s degree in vocal performance.

    “Tyler has always been a leader in our family, even through the death of our dad in 2012, he was a rock for my Mom and me,” she wrote. “He was, and hopefully will continue, to be a leader and a shining star in countless peoples’ lives. Although everyone’s thoughts and prayers have been a tremendous blessing to me and my family, Tyler still needs your financial support in his fight to pull through this extremely difficult time.

    “My brother has changed so many lives in his 22 years with us, and we all plan for him to continue that for many years to come. Please help me bring our shining star back into the spotlight where he belongs, so he can keep performing and making us proud. I don’t know what I would do without my big brother guiding me in everything I do.”

    The female victim, Nora Vallandares, whose second-floor apartment the men were visiting above Olive Oil Marketplace at 108 W. Third St., said Wednesday that she was returning to Barnes-Jewish Hospital for further treatment.

    “My arms were broken, my leg’s busted and I have nerve damage,” she said.

    Three days after the accident, which took place at about 11 p.m. Sunday, she told a Telegraph reporter that she wanted to clarify what happened and correct information officials provided to the media Monday.

    She said she was showing her apartment to two male friends when they stepped out onto the heavy-gauge aluminum platform at the rear. The fire escape collapsed and fell about 20 feet to the ground within seconds.

    Valladares said the trio were not hanging out on the platform.

    Alton Fire Chief Bernie Sebold said the platform was about 3 by 3 feet and affixed to the rear of the brick building with four bolts.

    After the fall, Valladares said she crawled to nearby Bossanova Martini Lounge and Restaurant, 112 W. Third St., where she had worked previously, to summon help. Someone at Bossanova called 911. A former co-worker drove Valladares to OSF Saint Anthony’s Hospital Emergency Department. An official has previously said she had driven herself to the hospital.

    An ARCH Air Medical Services helicopter later flew Valladares to the Barnes-Jewish trauma center.

    On the advice of her attorney, Valladares declined further comment.

    LifeStar Ambulance Service, which took Green to the hospital, also took the second injured man to OSF Saint Anthony’s. His identity and condition were not available Wednesday.

    Russ Smith, the building’s owner, said Monday that the platform was relatively new. “A new fire escape platform was put in not more than four years ago,” he said.

    Reach Linda N. Weller at 618-208-6450 or on Twitter @Linda_Weller



    Posted: Sep 19, 2016 11:49 PM BSTUpdated: Sep 20, 2016 12:26 AM BST

    ALTON, Ill. (KMOV.com) – During the late night hours of September 18, Alton firefighters had to rescue two people who were trapped under a fire escape after it collapsed while they where trying to escape a fire in the residence.

    Emergency crews said they got a call that three people were hurt around 11 p.m. after a collapse. When they arrived two men were under a metal fire escape.

    “We just heard somebody yell ‘help me, help me,’” said Andrew Ferguson who works nearby. “We came back here and we saw him lying on the floor, with blood all over his leg.”

    Ferguson had to jump over two air conditioning units to get to the two men before he quickly called 911.

    Alton firefighters said three people were actually hurt in the collapse. A woman who was injured ran to a nearby business for help before firefighters arrived.

    The three victims all needed medical treatment after falling about 20 feet when the fire escape from a second floor apartment in downtown Alton gave way.

    “We had to actually shove it off of the dude’s legs… like the other dude who was having a seizure we had to move it off of him” said Ferguson. “I honestly thank God that we heard them at the last second.. I can’t even… I just I don’t know.”

    Fire crews have not said why the fire escape collapsed and why the three people were on the escape when there was no fire.

    Copyright 2016 KMOV (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved.





    The pressure is on for Philadelphia lawmakers to tighten lax inspection laws which critics warn have resulted in catastrophic fire escape collapses across the city.

    For the first time on camera, the victims involved in a fatal accident in Center City are speaking out to Action News saying the death of 22-year-old Albert Suh should have been prevented.

    Remnants of police tape in an alley at 22nd and Locust mark the spot where one life was lost and two others narrowly survived a devastating collapse on the night of January 12, 2014.

    “It was like the loudest rumbling crash I had ever heard,” Laura O’Brien said.

    It was O’Brien’s first time standing on the balcony with two roommates, during a party they threw for a friend’s birthday.

    But the celebration quickly turned tragic.

    “My arms went over my head. I went straight down so quickly,” O’Brien said.

    O’Brien survived the fall.

    She broke her back and fell into a hole beneath the stairway.

    One other roommate was also seriously injured.

    “I could hear my roommate Nancy yelling,” O’Brien said.

    Albert Suh did not survive.

    “The first thing I thought was that’s not possible,” Suh’s older brother Min said. “I’ve lost my brother.”

    Three months later on April 11th, City Council’s Committee on Public Safety held a hearing on the collapse.

    “It is a statement to me that our fire professionals won’t even use fire escapes because of the condition or the varying condition they may be in,” Councilman Curtis Jones said.

    It was revealed there are absolutely no requirements for inspecting emergency fire escapes in Philadelphia, even structures that are 20, 30, 50 years old.

    “We don’t need any more tragedies here,” Councilman Bobby Henon said.

    “These are accidents waiting to happen. They have happened before this incident occurred in other parts of the city and they will happen again,” attorney Shanin Specter said.

    Specter represents O’Brien and Suh and is suing the landlord, who says he’s not responsible.

    An attorney for Kline and Specter testified at that hearing, questioning why Philadelphia has not adopted the current 2012 International Fire Code. That code requires an inspection every five years. But instead, the city still follows the outdated 2009 version which lacks inspection standards.

    “They are taking their lives into their hands. This is something that needs to be addressed and addressed now,” Specter said.

    Depositions revealed the four floor fire escape on 22nd and Locust had not been inspected in at least 12 years and would most likely have malfunctioned in the case of an emergency, possibly carrying multiple tenants and even first responders.

    “It was grossly structurally unsound for it to collapse with only three people on it,” Specter said.

    We took those concerns to the Public Safety Chairman, Councilman Curtis Jones.

    “We mourn their loss as well as they do. And we are going to do something so it doesn’t happen again,” Jones said.

    Jones agrees fire escapes need to be inspected at least every five years.

    “This could have been prevented,” Min Suh said.

    The question is who will do the inspections and who will pay for it.

    “We pass laws all the time, but sometimes people ignore that. So we want to be able to pass a law, have it paid for, and then have it enforced,” Jones said.

    We pushed Jones on a date for that new law.

    He said he thinks he can get funding for inspections in the budget starting July 1st to train inspectors and he hopes to pass a bill within the fiscal year.

    At issue is who would pay for the inspections.

    Council is considering the landlords who will pass that expense on to renters. But over a five year period with multiple tenants, Specter estimates the cost should be minimal, just pennies a month to ensure residents safety.

    Fire escape collapse at Bowmanville business injures two people

    Fire escape collapse at Bowmanville business injures two people

    CLARINGTON FIRE TRUCKTwo people are in hospital after the fire escape at Gig’s Music in Bowmanville collapsed. Clarington fire crews were called to the King and Scugog Street area on Friday around 11:10 p.m. and when they arrived, they found two people on the ground in the alleyway. Officials say there was a party going on when the overcrowded fire escape collapsed and dropped from the second storey of the building. Officials say fire escapes should only be used during an emergency and they will be checking others in the community to make sure they are properly attached.




    Tim Fleischer is live in Brooklyn with the latest details.

    A man fell four stories when the fire escape he was standing on partially collapsed in Brooklyn Friday night.

    Authorities say the 23-year-old man was leaning against a railing on the fourth-floor fire escape at the Lefferts Boulevard apartment building when it apparently gave way around 11:30 p.m.

    Part of the fire escape broke off of the five-story building, and the victim plunged to the sidewalk.

    He was rushed to Kings County Hospital in stable condition and is expected to survive.

    He is believed to have been smoking on the fire escape at the time.

    He does not live in the building, but nearby.

    The unexpected fall raised concerns and prompted immediate repair work set up by the building owner. Residents pointed out that most problems are addressed quickly.

    “What the situation was last night or why the individual was out there, I don’t know,” resident Richard Witt said. “Any problem that we’ve ever had with them, they fix almost immediately. So I’m surprised that this happened.”

    City records show no outstanding problems or failures with the fire escapes at the location, but investigators are being asked by the NYPD for a stability inspection.

    The Department of Buildings issued a violation for failure to maintain the fire escape.

    Show Us Your Fire Escape (Please)

    THIS ARTICLE IS DANGEROUS for although it looks really cool, putting obstructions on your fire escape endangers the occupants and the firefighters who may use them as well.  Usually it’s the ONLY means of egress out of a burning building. Yes, newer buildings require a fire staircase inside, older buildings DO NOT have this.  Actually, obstructing a fire escape is totally illegal – nationwide! What if a firefighter had to come up the fire escape with equipment to SAVE YOUR LIFE?

    Show Us Your Fire Escape (Please)

    (Photo by Sai Mokhtari)

    I have never really delved into the world of Pinterest, which seems to me to be a place where people collect images of things they want but will never have, and call it “inspiration.” Sad! But while searching for a photo of a fire escape recently, I came upon a fire escape Pinterest board, and hoo boy… do you even know what people do with their fire escapes? They turn them into lush verandas, resting spots, miniature porches, little oases of their own.

    This goes beyond the romance of simply dangling one’s feet off a fire escape on a hot summer day in the city—it’s a full transformation, an extension of one’s apartment, and it can be a real gamechanger here in the land of 400-sq-ft living spaces. F*ckin’ Pinterest, man.

    It’s not at all legal to do these wonderful things to your fire escape, as they are meant to be kept clear in the event of, you know, a fire. FDNY spokesman Frank Dwyer told us, “In short, no, plants and other items are not to permitted on fire escapes.”

    However, fire escapes are basically only decoration now anyway—last year, one FDNY rep declared: “Those fire escapes are going the way of the dinosaur,” noting that fireproof interior stairwells are now the preferred addition for newer buildings.

    These little metal ledges are something only New Yorkers could romanticize so much, and they have a long history here in the city (some people even used them as open-air bedrooms back in the day). So we want to celebrate them—have you done something magical with your fire escape? We’d like to see it. You can submit a photo to us at tips@gothamist.com (just let us know if you would like to remain anonymous).

    Heat Takes Toll on Long Island Firefighters

    Heat Takes Toll on Long Island Firefighters

    Five people had minor injuries — and a cat was killed — during a five-alarm fire at a Hempstead apartment building Saturday afternoon, authorities said.

    The blaze heavily damaged two or three apartments in the six-story, 36-unit building at 36 Cathedral Ave., said Michael Uttaro, Nassau County assistant chief fire marshal. Several other units appeared to have also been affected.

    About 60 residents of the co-op were displaced by the fire, officials said.

    It took 20 fire departments about two and a half hours to knock down the fire that was reported at 2:42 p.m., Uttaro said.

    Four of those treated for injuries were firefighters, who battled the inferno while temperatures outside reached into the 90s. All had heat exhaustion or hyperthermia, officials said.

    A male resident of the building was taken to a hospital and treated for similar injuries. He was able to rescue his two cats from the scorched building, authorities said.

    But Georgia Laudani, 35, who lives in the apartment where the fire began, said her own cat Trixie — a 5-year-old feline with three legs — didn’t survive.

    “They’re going to try and get her body out for me,” said a tearful Laudani, who was out celebrating her fifth wedding anniversary when the fire broke out in her second-floor unit. Firefighters say the cause is under investigation, but that it’s not considered suspicious.

    “It’s my wedding anniversary,” Laudani said. “My whole apartment’s in ashes.”

    It was unclear late Saturday whether any other animals were hurt in the blaze.

    Red Cross volunteers at the scene said they were helping dozens of displaced residents find places to stay.

    The building’s occupants described a chaotic scene in the moments after the fire broke out, as people fled via fire escapes and stairwells. A postal service worker on the property could be heard yelling for people to “Get out, get out!” witnesses said, as tenants grabbed what valuables they could and ran.

    “The flames were jumping out of the windows, bright orange like, like it was a movie,” said Sarah Kramer, who was staying in her sister’s apartment and smelled smoke as she watched the news. She used a fire escape to rush downstairs, where she watched the fire roar.

    “The heat was so intense, the firefighters looked like they could barely breathe,” Kramer said. “They looked like they were ready to collapse, but they did the job.”

    Laudani said she was glad to have escaped safely, but mourned the loss of her cat and all her valuables, including the ashes of family members.

    “It’s overwhelming,” she said.


    ©2016 Newsday

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    2 jump from second-floor window to escape blaze

    Spencer Kent | NJ Advance Media for NJ.comBy Spencer Kent | NJ Advance Media for NJ.com 
    Email the author | Follow on Twitter
    on July 26, 2016 at 3:03 PM, updated July 26, 2016 at 7:30 PM

    HIGHLAND PARK — When borough Fire Chief Jay Littman arrived at a rooming house consumed in flames Tuesday morning, he said he “knew it was very bad.”

    Immediately, he called for other departments to respond to the scene.Outside the home, as the flames continued to roar, he heard a window crash and he looked up.

    I looked up at the second-story window, and a girl literally jumped out the window,” he recalled. “(We) were in the process of going to get her, and she jumped out.” He said a man then also exited the window and climbed down the fire escape.

    Fire personnel arrived at the house on South Aidelaide Avenue at about 10:30 a.m., according to police. Though they had initially gotten the blaze under control, firefighters had to battle the fire a second time after another flare up inside around 1 p.m., according to Littman.

    Officials said the house had been destroyed.

    Two other people home at the time were able to escape before firefighters arrived at the scene, Littman added.

    The cause of the fire remains under investigation by the county Prosecutor’s Office and the Middlesex County Fire Marshal.

    Several fire departments were called to the scene, including Highland Park, Edison, New Brunswick, Metuchen, South Plainfield and East Franklin.

    Spencer Kent may be reached at skent@njadvancemedia.com. Follow him on Twitter @SpencerMKent. Find the Find NJ.com on Facebook.