Broken Standpipe Being Investigated in Deadly Blaze Near Ground Zero
Demolition of the former Deutsche Bank tower (far right in photo) was halted recently due to a fire there that killed two New York City firefighters Aug. 18. Both men got lost on the 14th floor as their air tanks ran out and inhaled smoke. City spokespeople said fire investigators had determined the blaze began in an area on the 17th floor where workers stopped for decontamination.
According to news reports, fire marshals found a chunk of broken standpipe detached and lying on the basement floor. Jim Long, fire department spokesman, said the fire department is responsible for checking the water flow in working building standpipes every five years-with building owners usually maintaining them in between.
On Aug. 20, the city could not say when the water network had last been tested. However, the fire department said the building had been issued at least one other violation related to standpipe problems.
The tower has been empty since it was damaged by falling wreckage during the terrorist attack on Sept. 11, 2001, and it was being dismantled floor by floor. Once 41 stories, it stood at 26 when the fire began.
The Lower Manhattan Development Corp., which owns the building, bought the Deutsche Bank tower three years ago and took over the removal project. During building demolition, the city Department of Buildings (DOB) issued a separate permit for each floor before it could be taken down.
With each floor permit, the DOB visually inspected the valves and caps for the standpipe in the area, but the inspections did not include testing the water flow. The last permit, for the dismantling of the 26th floor, was issued July 31.
Photo by Mark Lennihan (AP).