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Commissioner wants experts to check empty buildings
Copyright 2007 The Buffalo News
The city will take new steps to prevent firefighters and others from being hurt in thousands of vacant buildings, officials announced Friday.
Fire Commissioner Michael S. Lombardo told Buffalo's accountability panel he wants experts to check out all empty structures, then post warning signs at some sites to alert emergency responders and others to dangers.
Firefighters might perform the review, or a consultant might be hired to conduct the citywide canvass.
The issue surfaced at Friday's CitiStat meeting, less than three weeks after Firefighter Mark Reed was critically injured battling an arson at an empty Wende Street house. A chimney collapsed on him at the run-down property that the city had taken ownership of six months earlier.
Reed, a 10-year department veteran, had to have his leg amputated and remains hospitalized. Lombardo informed Mayor Byron W. Brown Friday that Reed was showing "marked improvement." While Reed remains in serious condition, Lombardo said the 36-year-old firefighter is no longer in a drug-induced coma, is breathing on his own and is even responding to some stimuli.
The June 10 fire at the abandoned property underscored problems Buffalo has faced involving blighted buildings. Some have estimated that there are at least 10,000 empty structures in the city. Hundreds of them burn each year, many because they were targeted by arsonists.
While Reed's injuries have cast the spotlight on fires in vacant buildings, Lombardo told the CitiStat panel there have actually been 31 percent fewer blazes in empty structures this year when compared with a similar period in 2006. City crews battled 78 such fires between Jan. 1 and June 15, versus 113 fires during a comparable period last year. The number of fires in all buildings -- occupied and vacant -- was down 11 percent, according to new Fire Department data.
Lombardo said visiting all vacant structures, cataloging any problems and posting appropriate warning signs could help prevent future injuries.
"I think it will be a step in the right direction," he said.
Emergency responders wouldn't be the only individuals whose safety might be enhanced if warning notices are posted outside structures that have collapsed floors and other problems, Lombardo said.
"There's homeless people that set up shop in these places," he said.
© 2001-2011 City of Buffalo
Photos by Angel Art LTP, compliments of the Greater Buffalo Convention and Visitors Bureau. Additional photos by Adrian Roselli, compliments of Algonquin Studios