Code enforcement draws the line at this Collyer Mansion fire.
A 66-year old Lansdowne man died in a house fire Wednesday where his illness of hoarding culminated in a condemned building ruling, barring firefighters from making entry.
In April, Elmer Glenn Burnette Jr's home was officially condemned, listed as "unfit for habitation." The fire department, at no fault of their own, followed a "no entry" rule when Burnette's home caught fire in order to minimize risk during initial operations. Unfortunately due to Burnette's condition, the amount of fire in relation to his location when found, it is highly unlikely that the outcome would have been different had no such rule existed.
“The building’s marked as a no-entry building because it’s a hoarder’s house,” said Lansdowne Fire Chief Tom Young. “There was a lot of fire in the living room area and, then, at that time, we didn’t know he was there. And then they did a search and found the body.”
“We’re not going to enter a building when it’s going to be more hazardous to our firefighters to enter a house like that,” said Young. “The guys did a great job knocking the fire down a fast as they did and gaining access to where (Burnette) was.”
Read more at "Firefighters Barred from Entry During Fatal Hoarding Fire" on FirefighterNation.com
The purpose of calling your attention is to have you consider, in the greater theory, does a code ruling and subsequent rules create a liability for fire departments? I'm not advocating that we don't have these rules, or that we expect firefighters to rush in without due regard to personal safety, but does such a rule open the door for a family or others to take us to court for not doing our (expected) job? Most importantly, let's recognize the Lansdowne firefighters and officers for managing the risks and bearing the responsibilties, especially in this situation. It is not an easy task.
As I have said before, both here and in person with others, when we begin to label occupants as either survivable or not, beyond the typical sizeup skills, we run a risk of being taken to task for playing God.
I've passed this on to Curt Varone of FireLaw for his views. What are yours?
Also on Backstep Firefighter …
- Collyer Mansion: Washington, D.C. – November 25, 2012
- Why We Search: Dropping the Hammer in Lewiston and Dead in Vegas – May 8, 2013
- Why We Search: Columbus Firefighters Rescue Child in Vacant House Fire – June 7, 2013
- Why We Search: Rescue in New York, Bodies in Texas, Colorado and Ontario – October 29, 2013