NORTHERN LIBERTIES – April 20, 2011 (WPVI) — A firefighter remains in critical condition after a blaze that killed a retired police officer in Philadelphia’s Northern Liberties neighborhood.
Firefighter Joseph Seeger was one of three firefighters who were injured, hospitalized with burns and a head injury. While his condition is still classified as critical, officials say his condition is improving.
Firefighter Christine Lardon was also injured, suffering from burns. Lieutenant Raymond Vozzelli was treated and released.
70-year-old Joseph “Louis” Bell, who used a wheelchair, died in the fast-moving fire. Bell, who served with the Philadelphia police, has a son – Kevin – currently serving in the 16th District.
In a news conference on Wednesday afternoon, authorities say the firefighters knew it was dangerous to go into the house, but they also knew someone was inside and they were “duty-bound” to try and rescue him. LINK
I haven’t been blogging much lately… I know. I have been fairly busy with the kids, especially the girl. They have a lot going on right now and they need the support. I have also been busy with work and school. A couple of double shifts lately and the end of the semester have conspired to rob me of both sleep and free time. I did manage to take the boy with me to the range today. It was 80 degrees and sunny so it was a perfect way to try to forget about the events of last night while he broke in his Christmas present. (A Mossberg .22)
Since Mayor Nutter closed seven fire companies and forced the fire department to institute “rolling brownouts” – daily closings of selected fire companies, my company is routinely forced to move to other sections of the city whenever there is a fire in another local. It’s called a “cover up”. So far this year we have around 50-60 cover ups. Every time we cover another company, our local is left without its fire protection. It’s a lot like a Ponzi scheme or more accurately Russian Roulette. You are betting you can cheat and nothing will happen. It is Mayor Nutters view of public safety. But gambling is no way to keep the public or cops and firefighters and medics safe.
When the house PA announced “Ladder cover up!” last night, I stopped what I was doing and headed to the apparatus floor. I asked what was going on and the fellas told me that Ladder 16 was on a job as the RIT company. In Philly like many cities, one company is designated as the “Rapid Intervention Team”. Their specific job is to standby in case a firefighter gets trapped or injured and assist in their rescue. When a RIT company is dispatched it is usually serious.
So last night we were sent to cover Ladder 16. No sooner did we get the truck out of the station when all hell broke loose on the radio. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. I wasn’t listening to the radio prior to this so I was caught off guar as to how serious this one sounded. Then I got chills up the back of my neck. Everyone in the cab could hear the distinct sound of the emergency distress call come over the radio. Someone was issuing a “Mayday” and it sounded for real. The radio traffic was chaotic after that. This job was going badly. At one point we heard the Chief put the RIT company in service. This could only mean one thing: there was a firefighter down. In this case it would be three firefighters. One is still fighting for his life.
Instinctively my driver headed south as fast as traffic would allow. Surely we would be called next to replace the RIT team that went into service and we didn’t want to waste any time. All we needed was the call. Unfortunately the alarm room is controlled by computers and not thinking people. They dispatched a company from WEST PHILADELPHIA instead of us. We were half the distance but couldn’t get on the job. Reluctantly we headed back toward ladder 16’s station.
No sooner did we drive blocks in the opposite direction than the second alarm was struck. Now we were called to the scene, but by this time it was too late for us to be of any help as the house was destroyed and the victim was dead. We stood by for a while and eventually we were released. I briefly saw Lt. Vozzelli, who I have known for years being taken to a waiting ambulance on a stretcher. He had to be treated for burns. He looked shaken and it’s tough seeing your colleagues injured like that. Another vision I won’t soon forget.
Once again Philadelphia’s pathetic media refuses to call anyone out on the cut backs that directly led to this catastrophe. Ladder 23 was browned out last night and would have responded. Engine 20 had to come from Chinatown as the second in company because both Engine 6 and Engine 8 have been closed by the Nutter administration. So there it is, the tale of the tape. Civilians dead and maimed. Firefighters maimed and nearly killed. Two of these firefighters may never return to their jobs. Time will tell. At this point we are just glad they are alive.