Family Of Fallen New Jersey Firefighter Sues Cities

GLOUCESTER CITY, N.J. (AP) -- The family of a firefighter killed in a July 4, 2002 blaze that also took the lives of three young girls and two other firefighters is suing.

The family of Thomas Stewart III accused Gloucester City and Camden and their fire departments of mismanaging the fire scene, failing to provide proper training and equipment for firefighters and of having inadequate department staffing.

The family filed the lawsuit, which seeks unspecified damages, on Wednesday _ two days before the statute of limitations expires.

Stewart and seven other firefighters were in the house looking for the girls when the structure collapsed. Five of the men got out, while Stewart and two others perished.

A few hours before he died, Stewart, 30, publicly proposed to Danielle Ruggerio during Gloucester City's holiday fireworks display. Ruggerio and Stewart's brother, Ryan Stewart, are the plaintiffs in the lawsuit.

Since the fire, there have been several official reports criticizing the way it was fought.

The fire was caused by careless smoking, authorities said.