Firefighters’ union files complaint for Buck Hosiery records

After April’s Buck Ho­siery fire in Kens­ing­ton, uni­on Loc­al 22 has filed a com­plaint against the city to ob­tain re­cords from the night of the fire.

In the wake of April’s Buck Ho­siery fact­ory fire that left two fire­fight­ers dead, the fire­fight­er’s uni­on has filed a com­plaint against the city to ob­tain ra­dio trans­mis­sions and files from the night of the fire.

The com­plaint came sev­er­al weeks after a re­quest was made by the In­ter­na­tion­al As­so­ci­ation of Fire­fight­ers Loc­al 22 chapter, which rep­res­ents Philly fire­fight­ers, for emer­gency re­sponse teams’ re­cords from April 9.

“There was no reply to our re­quests,” said Loc­al 22 Pres­id­ent Bill Gault. “Noth­ing, not even a no, just no reply what­so­ever, which I’m get­ting very used to with this ad­min­is­tra­tion.”

On April 9, a wall col­lapse killed Lt. Robert Neary and Fire­fight­er Daniel Sweeney in the af­ter­math of the fire at the Thomas W. Buck Ho­siery Fact­ory in East Kens­ing­ton.

In Ju­ly, Loc­al 22 re­ques­ted all au­dio cop­ies of ra­dio trans­mis­sions, pho­to­graphs, videos, re­ports, or memor­anda in the pos­ses­sion of the city re­gard­ing the Buck Ho­siery Fire, to in­vest­ig­ate a pos­sible griev­ance.

“Ba­sic­ally, I don’t want it to hap­pen again,” Gault said. “Fire­men learn from our mis­takes… Usu­ally after a fire, we have a meet­ing – ‘Where were you? How did it go? How could it have gone bet­ter?’ We’ve nev­er had one from that [fire].”

Gault has pre­vi­ously said that deaths of Neary and Sweeney were “pre­vent­able,” and Loc­al 22 has al­leged that a prop­er col­lapse zone was not set up on April 9. A col­lapse zone must be set up out­side a burn­ing build­ing at a dis­tance one-and-a-half times the height of the walls, ac­cord­ing to pro­tocol.

Neary and Sweeney died after one of the fact­ory’s five-story walls col­lapsed on a nearby struc­ture that they were ex­amin­ing.

The uni­on’s charge of un­fair labor prac­tices was sent to the Pennsylvania Labor Re­la­tions Board on Au­gust 22, and made pub­lic last week. The com­plaint also in­quires as to Fire Com­mis­sion­er Lly­od Ay­ers’ where­abouts on April 9 and as to who was over­see­ing op­er­a­tions that night.

Loc­al 22 pre­vi­ously de­man­ded that Ay­ers and his top two depu­ties step down due to their al­leged er­rors dur­ing the fire. Ay­ers has claimed that a prop­er col­lapse zone was in fact set up dur­ing the fire.

Dis­trict At­tor­ney Seth Wil­li­ams has im­paneled a grand jury to in­vest­ig­ate the fire, al­though it’s un­clear what crim­in­al charges could be pending as a res­ult of the fire. Grand jury pro­ceed­ings are kept con­fid­en­tial and could last in­def­in­itely.

“The only reas­on we even con­firmed that there was a grand jury was that the May­or’s of­fice, on the day the fire was hap­pen­ing, the may­or was on TV say­ing ‘We want a grand jury,’” said Tasha Jamer­son, Wil­li­ams’ spokes­wo­man. “That we’re even ad­mit­ting there’s a grand jury is totally out of the norm.”

The of­fice of May­or Mi­chael Nut­ter did not re­spond to re­quests for com­ment at press-time. May­or Nut­ter’s of­fice has pre­vi­ously denied wrong­do­ing and stated that a fed­er­al labor in­vest­ig­a­tion of the fire is also pending.

Many oth­er Phil­adelphia build­ings are in the con­di­tion that the long-va­cant Buck Ho­siery Fact­ory was in be­fore it burned down, Gault said.

“There’s got to be 2,000 of them build­ings in this city,” he said.

Re­port­er Sam Ne­w­house can be reached at sne­w­

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