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    Default Yet another reason to search...

    NY TIMES

    June 10, 2007
    5 Are Rescued From a Fire at a Grocery in Queens
    By CARA BUCKLEY

    Firefighters rescued five workers trapped behind locked metal gates as a blaze swept through a Queens supermarket early yesterday, the authorities and witnesses said.

    One of the workers told investigators that the gates had been locked from the inside, but that he had left the key in a coat he could not get to because of the advancing wall of flames.

    After the blaze broke out, the workers, believed to be immigrants hired to do renovation work while the supermarket was closed at night, took turns banging on the metal gates and crying for help while the others sought refuge in the supermarket’s basement, until firefighters cut through the gates with chain saws and helped the gasping men out.

    “We’re going to die, we’re going to die! There’s no air!” the men cried in Spanish, according to a neighbor, as thick inky smoke billowed out from the supermarket, Met Foods on 101st Avenue and 102nd Street in Ozone Park. “No breathe, no breathe,” another trapped worker cried, according to the neighbor, Brian Plunkett, 27.

    Investigators sifting through the wreckage yesterday had yet to find the worker’s missing key. It appeared that the fire was ignited by a propane torch the workers were using to loosen glue holding down old floor tiles, a spokesman for the Fire Department said.

    The supermarket’s owner, Joseph Doleh, will likely be issued a summons for improper use of the torch, the spokesman, Francis X. Gribbon said. But it did not appear that the owner would get a summons for the shuttered gates, Mr. Gribbon said, because the workers had locked themselves in.

    “It’s not a good practice, but that doesn’t mean it’s illegal,” Mr. Gribbon said.

    The fire was reported at 3:25 a.m., and firefighters who responded heard the trapped men banging on the corrugated metal gates, and then falling silent. After two firefighters sawed though one of the supermarket’s gates, they found the five men huddled in the basement, crying, with blackened shirts pressed over their faces.

    “They were distressed, they didn’t have long to go,” said Bradley Walls, a chief with Battalion 51. “There was smoke pouring out of the place. Time was critical for them.”

    The blaze was extinguished shortly before 5 a.m. after 60 firefighters responded. Three of the workers were taken to Jamaica Hospital Medical Center, and the other two were taken to Mary Immaculate Hospital. All were treated for smoke inhalation and minor injuries, according to the Fire Department. A dozen firefighters were also treated for smoke inhalation and bumps and bruises, a department spokesman said.

    The contractor in charge of the renovation could not be reached for comment yesterday, and the workers’ identities were not disclosed.

    Neighbors said they had been working inside the supermarket at nights for the last three weeks. When the workers were in there at nights, the supermarket’s metal gates were always rolled down, according to another neighbor, Stalin Sanchez, who said he complained repeatedly to the owner about the late-night noise.

    Although the Fire Department said it appeared that the supermarket’s owner had not shut in the workers, a number of supermarkets in Brooklyn, Queens and the Bronx have been faulted over the last few years for locking workers in without keys.

    Immigrant advocates and worker advocates say that supermarkets lock in workers at night to prevent theft; padlocking the doors and pulling down window gates make it far harder for outsiders to rob the store and for those working inside to steal.

    Yesterday’s fire left a blackened wasteland inside the Met Foods store, which is normally bustling with shoppers. Charred heaps of burned food, scorched glass, melted cleaning supplies and upended shelving were strewn throughout the store. Fruits and vegetables were in blackened puddles. Onions, garlic cloves, and a can of red kidney beans lined the curb outside.

    One neighbor, Samuel Ruiz, 17, said the stench of smoke jolted him awake. “It was crazy, I woke up, I couldn’t breathe, I was choking,” he said.

    Mr. Plunkett heard the trapped men screaming and after going outside said the smoke was so thick that he couldn’t see his own hand in front of his face. He said he grabbed a sledgehammer and was about to try to break down the metal gates when the firefighters showed up.

    Yesterday afternoon, the supermarket’s clerks loaded bags of salvaged groceries into the car belonging to the supermarket’s owner, Mr. Doleh.

    “At least nobody got hurt, that’s the main thing,” Mr. Doleh said. “I don’t know what else to say. The contractor has the key they used to get in and out of the building.”

    Steven Greenhouse and Daryl Khan contributed reporting.

    FTM-PTB

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    NY TIMES
    June 11, 2007
    Market Owner Is Cited in Fire Where 5 Men Were Trapped
    By THOMAS J. LUECK

    The owner of a Queens supermarket was accused yesterday of violating city codes after a blaze on Friday night in which firefighters rescued five workers who had been locked inside the store and were found in the basement, huddled, crying and blackened by smoke.

    A spokeswoman for District Attorney Richard A. Brown said the owner, Yunes Doleh, was issued a summons for having a locked exit, a misdemeanor that could result in a fine. Having a locked gate also violated the city building code, said Kate Lindquist, a spokeswoman for the Department of Buildings.

    A construction contractor who supervised the five workers, Jose Correa, was charged on Saturday with reckless endangerment, a more serious misdemeanor under state law that could lead to a jail sentence.

    The fire, which firefighters said appeared to have been started by a propane torch, erupted as the five workers, all believed to be immigrants, were renovating the supermarket, Met Foods at 101st Avenue and 102nd Street in Ozone Park.

    They were working at night when the store was closed, and the authorities said Mr. Correa, who was not present, had the key they needed to open a security gate and escape.

    None of the men were seriously injured, but the fire prompted criticism of a practice by a number of supermarkets in recent years of locking workers in at night so that outsiders do not enter and the workers do not steal merchandise.

    “We would like to see a program of inspections, hefty fines and, where appropriate, criminal charges,” said Artemio Guerra, director of organizing for the Fifth Avenue Committee, an advocacy group that has documented many examples of the practice involving food store janitors and stocking clerks.

    In 2004, the group offered fire officials a list of 36 supermarkets where it said workers were being locked in at night.

    Francis X. Gribbon, a Fire Department spokesman, said yesterday that top officials of the department would review the Ozone Park situation today to determine “if there is any reason to inspect other locations.”

    But he said previous inspections, including those of each supermarket on the list provided by Mr. Guerra’s group, had turned up little evidence of unlawful working conditions.

    Mr. Gribbon said the episode on Friday night was the only one in recent years in which outside construction workers, as opposed to store employees, were found to be locked in at night.

    Mr. Doleh said yesterday that Mr. Correa and his workers had been hired to repair the floor in the Met Foods store and had been at work for “a couple days.”

    He said he had “no idea what they were doing,” adding that “I assumed everything was O.K.”

    Mr. Doleh said he has held the franchise for the Ozone Park store for eight years but does not own the building. He said that his regular store employees had never been scheduled to work after hours and that there had been no problems in the past related to unsafe working conditions.

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    You shouldn't need a reason to search besides the fact that it's your job to do it. It amazes me that people find excuses not to search.

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    I hope Jose Correa gets the same treatment that Alan Baird got.

    On another note. Kudos to FDNY for doing a great job.

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    I'll add that this is not the first time this type of thing has happened. It actually happens every few years around here. Yes, people are routinly locked in stores overnight, for security,work, and even living space! I remember being taught to check for pins holding the gate, inserted from the inside if we cant lift the gate after removing the locks. You would need to insert the pike end of the Halligan to push the pins in, usually near the top. So much for the "hey, its a locked up Supermarket late at night....there's probably nobody inside" arguement.

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    Yep, even here in the smaller areas, some (a larger neighboring department) try to take the B!tch way out and make excuses not to enter on a fire for search OR a firefight. They just burned down a whole apartment building starting in a bush on the same day we had a ripping two level involvement on an apartment starting on a deck (we went in and saved ours, what an idea, fighting fire!).

    Sorry for a highjack there, they just sicken me. We should search EVERY fire (unless obvious from conditions). We should also put away our skirts and be firemen!

    (OK, some aren't safe to fight, but that's the exception not the rule).
    FTM-PTB-RFB
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    Saw it on the news. You're right Matt. It happens all over. Probably in some places where they couldn't even imagine something like that. It's not just in Chinatown anymore.

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    Seems to me this has been going on for well over 100 years, locking folks in to "prevent theft". The Triangle Building fire from early 1900s (can't recall exact year) had numerous deaths because of this exact reason. AND that was during regular work hours.

    Well done to FDNY though, for getting everyone out.
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    Thumbs up And............

    I think we should acknowledge the Neighbor who was starting(?) on the gate when FDNY arrived. People who are willing to try something are a lot better (in my mind) than those who stand there yelling "it took you a month to get here".
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    This happened at our local small-town supermarket last month in fact. There were two kids inside stripping the floors and he cut his hand pretty bad. The first arriving units and the police officer go to the door of the supermarket. The kids are at the door saying "The owner locked the door, we can't open the door to leave until the baker gets here at 4am."

    For once there was a fire exit not blocked by a stack of boxes or a rack of pretzels so the other kid opened that up for us. (I then propped it open with a nearby bag of doritos. If it was blocked, we would have been doing a few thousand dollars worth of damage to get in.
    Even the burger-flippers at McDonald's probably have some McWackers.

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    Thumbs down Do What??

    Quote Originally Posted by FFFRED View Post
    NY TIMES

    Yesterday’s fire left a blackened wasteland inside the Met Foods store, which is normally bustling with shoppers. Charred heaps of burned food, scorched glass, melted cleaning supplies and upended shelving were strewn throughout the store. Fruits and vegetables were in blackened puddles. Onions, garlic cloves, and a can of red kidney beans lined the curb outside.


    Yesterday afternoon, the supermarket’s clerks loaded bags of salvaged groceries into the car belonging to the supermarket’s owner, Mr. Doleh.

    “At least nobody got hurt, that’s the main thing,” Mr. Doleh said. “I don’t know what else to say."

    FTM-PTB

    Well, for one thing, a dissertation on Greed would be appropriate. Where were the "Salvaged groceries" going??......... I sincerly doubt that the stuff was being transported over to the landfill in the owners car.

    But, a word of explanation: Here, As soon as he/she gets down the checklist to it, The Incident Commander has the Health Department respond for any event in a Food Handling establishment, such as Stores, Restaurants, etc. NO food or drink may be touched by anyone, except FD Members who need to move stuff during overhaul, until the HD has inspected the scene. Store Stock routinely fills a lot of dumpsters as cleanup proceeds. There have been a few instances where a business owner has tried to move stuff to another venue and sell it, only to get caught and charged with a Crime. The HD condemns something here, it must be destroyed. On a few occasions HD inspectors have remained on scene to be sure all contaminated items were properly disposed of. I don't like "Monday Morning Quarterbacks", but I'll be one in order to state that, based on press reports, the severity of the Fire indicates the entire contents of the store should have been seized and destroyed.
    Never use Force! Get a Bigger Hammer.
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    Quote Originally Posted by fyrmnk View Post
    Yep, even here in the smaller areas, some (a larger neighboring department) try to take the B!tch way out and make excuses not to enter on a fire for search OR a firefight. They just burned down a whole apartment building starting in a bush on the same day we had a ripping two level involvement on an apartment starting on a deck (we went in and saved ours, what an idea, fighting fire!).

    Sorry for a highjack there, they just sicken me. We should search EVERY fire (unless obvious from conditions). We should also put away our skirts and be firemen!

    (OK, some aren't safe to fight, but that's the exception not the rule).
    Hey fyrmnk, an FD down the highway from my department did the same thing recently to an apartment complex. They were in the Kansas City Metro area. Where was your neighboring department from?

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    fyrmnk,

    Never mind, I figured out where you're from. That department's display of "courage" was disgusting, yet comical at the same time.

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    Just wanted to point out this happened yet again, in a bodega in the South Bronx. Sq 41 removed 2 unconscious victims from a fire at a closed bodega at around 430 am a few nights ago.
    Proud East Coast Traditionalist.

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    Quote Originally Posted by nyckftbl View Post
    Just wanted to point out this happened yet again, in a bodega in the South Bronx. Sq 41 removed 2 unconscious victims from a fire at a closed bodega at around 430 am a few nights ago.

    Well yeah, but how many green lights did they blow thru to get there? Remember, I don't want to hear the old 'seconds count' cap, cuz we all know that they don't.







    Nice job 41. Two people will open their store today, because you did your job last night. Nice job.
    Last edited by jasper45; 07-29-2007 at 03:01 AM.

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    Maybe if we had those kind of issues in our response area we would worry about them, but we don't.

    How often do I hear from the "big city boys" how thier local situation dicates locally specific tactics. I guess that doesn't apply to us little guys, huh? I guess we're just not smart enough to figure these kinda things out.

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    Quote Originally Posted by LaFireEducator View Post
    Maybe if we had those kind of issues in our response area we would worry about them, but we don't.

    How often do I hear from the "big city boys" how thier local situation dicates locally specific tactics. I guess that doesn't apply to us little guys, huh? I guess we're just not smart enough to figure these kinda things out.
    Considering local conditions is fine when it comes to certain tactics. Every building is different (contrary to trotters statement), and tactics should be changed to suit the needs. However, SEARCHING A BUILDING is not a tactic that should be up for consideration. It is a basic premise of firefighting, and our duty to conduct. The only times a search should not be conducted are for the very obvious reasons of advanced fire (of course that will probably open a whole different debate) or for deteriorating bullding conditions. Even then, if victims are known to be inside, one should be able to use thier own training and experience to atleast attempt a rescue.

    Not having anyone outside screaming "my child is in there" is no excuse to not conduct an aggressive interior search.
    Proud East Coast Traditionalist.

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    Quote Originally Posted by nyckftbl View Post

    Not having anyone outside screaming "my child is in there" is no excuse to not conduct an aggressive interior search.

    But it is hot and the fire is in there
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    Quote Originally Posted by jasper45
    Well yeah, but how many green lights did they blow thru to get there? Remember, I don't want to hear the old 'seconds count' cap, cuz we all know that they don't.
    Well I hope they blowed through the green lights, I don't know how many people stop at a green.

    Sorry just had to give it to you, I know what you mean.

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    Quote Originally Posted by LaFireEducator View Post
    Maybe if we had those kind of issues in our response area we would worry about them, but we don't.
    You don't have what probably are illegal alliens?

    You don't have working poor?

    You don't have convience stores? (thats essentially what a bodega is)

    FTM-PTB

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    I was gonna go with:

    You don't have buildings?

    Or you don't have destructive fires?

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    Quote Originally Posted by LaFireEducator View Post
    Maybe if we had those kind of issues in our response area we would worry about them, but we don't.

    How often do I hear from the "big city boys" how thier local situation dicates locally specific tactics. I guess that doesn't apply to us little guys, huh? I guess we're just not smart enough to figure these kinda things out.
    I'm a little surprised to hear that there's an area of Louisiana that has no convenience stores located in it where a store owner might be spending the night to deter theft. You must reside in a very upscale area.

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    Quote Originally Posted by LaFireEducator View Post
    Maybe if we had those kind of issues in our response area we would worry about them, but we don't.

    How often do I hear from the "big city boys" how thier local situation dicates locally specific tactics. I guess that doesn't apply to us little guys, huh? I guess we're just not smart enough to figure these kinda things out.
    Yes....you are right...local "situation" or as I like to say,variables, such as equiptment,building construction and configuration,population density,crime rate,water supply,traffic,building density,weather, etc.....all have an effect on tactics.....but exactly what tactic are you referring to? The tactic of not searching a building for potential victims? I dont belive that is a tactic. Thats as basic to firefighting as putting the fire out.

    Your quote at the top, I think is the real issue. "Big city boys", "little guys" and "not smart enough". You appear to have an issue with guys who work in the larger cities in this country. From what I've seen over the years on these boards...most "big city" guys like to share ideas on tactics because they belive in them, and have seen them work day in and day out......not to push around the "little guys"...as you imply. Get over your hate, or fear or inferiority complex,or whatever it is, you apparently have towards the "big city boys"

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    Question How often does this happen?

    Hi, I am a reporter looking at cases like these where workers are being locked in over night. I'd be happy to talk to anyone about how often this occurs, whether you're in NY or not.

    Please feel free to contact me at magdalene.perez@gmail.com or 212-239-7585. My paper is amNewYork at www.amny.com

    Thanks,

    Magdalene Perez
    amNewYork

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    I'll try this one more time.

    We do search and do interior attacks in buildings that are salvagable and are likely to have victims.

    In our district, an abondoned vbuilding is not likely to have a victim. Haven't found a victim in an abondoned building, ever, according to the old timers. We simply do not have squatters and kids using them to getb high and get laid. We simply do not. We're not going to hang out our boys necks on the VERY unlikley possibility that there is a victim in a building where the structural integrity is questionable at best, because it just doesn't happen here. Local situation/local tactics.

    We do not have a crime problem that requires conveince store owners to spend nights in thier stores. Chance of a victim in a closed convience store in our district - Basicall nil. We'll look if we decide to make an intrerior attack, but again, chances of a victim are VERY, VERY slight. Local situation/local tactics.

    We do not have employees locked in a store overnight in our district. It DOES NOT happen. It's simple. A closed store or business w/out any vehicles out front means that it is empty. We'll look around while dragging the line to the fire and may have a dedicated search team if manpower permits because it's not a priority, because it doesn't happen here. Local situation/local tactics.

    Most of the neighborhoods here if someone tells you that someone is away for the weekend, you can beleive it. Maybe it's not like that where you are but it is still that way most of the time here. Again. we'll search at some point but, once we have no reason to beleive the house is occupied, extingushement is the priority.

    If there is a reason in any in any of the above cases to beleive that there could be a victim, search becomes the priority AFTER line or two has been deployed to contain and extingush the fire.

    I hope that clears things up.

    We have been very successful .. well I guess I'd call no fire deaths in 15 the last years sucessful. Maybe we know a bit more about OUR district than you do?
    Last edited by LaFireEducator; 07-31-2007 at 02:11 PM.

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