3 FDNY Officials Demoted After Fatal Blaze

An Aug. 18 fire claimed the lives of two firefighters at the former Deutsche Bank office building in New York.
An Aug. 18 fire claimed the lives of two firefighters at the former Deutsche Bank office building in New York.

(CBS/AP) -- The New York Fire Department demoted three executives Monday and ordered intensive inspections of buildings under demolition after a deadly blaze in a condemned skyscraper at the World Trade Center site.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg also announced that a preliminary investigation indicated that careless smoking by construction workers started the Aug. 18 fire at the former Deutsche Bank building, which was being dismantled and cleaned of toxic debris floor by floor.

Bloomberg said the fire department failed to properly inspect the building, which he called "not excusable," reports CBS affiliate WCBS in New York. The mayor noted that the city is obliged to reduce risks to firefighters wherever possible, adding, "As a city I think it's safe to say that we failed to do that."

"I'm not interested in finger-pointing," Bloomberg said. "I simply want to fix what is broken, and that's why we've spent a lot of time over the last 10 days trying to account for those failures."

Two firefighters died of cardiac arrest while trying to battle that blaze.

After the fire, the department acknowledged that it didn't have a plan in place to fight a fire at the tower and that it had not inspected the building's standpipe system, which connects fire hoses to its water supply, in more than a year - even though it is supposed to do so every 15 days. Inspectors found pieces of the standpipe disconnected in the tower's basement.

Commissioner Nicholas Scoppetta on Monday ordered deputy chiefs to inspect all buildings in their divisions that are under construction or demolition and to review all plans to fight fires at every building in their area.

Scoppetta also said that a deputy chief, a battalion chief and a captain at the firehouse in charge of inspections at the tower were being reassigned to headquarters.

The reassigned deputy chief had received a memo more than two years earlier that included recommendations for how to fight a fire in the contaminated skyscraper, the New York Post reported Monday. The memo recommended that if a fire broke out, just one officer and two firefighters should go into the building to investigate and evaluate the situation.

Instead, more than 100 FDNY members rushed in to battle the flames. Firefighters Robert Beddia, 53, and Joseph Graffagnino, 33, both died of cardiac arrest.

A Fire Department spokesman confirmed Monday that the March 2005 memo from Battalion Chief William Siegel was authentic. The department wouldn't comment Monday on whether senior officials read the memo or accepted its recommendations.

The Deutsche Bank building had been vacant since it was heavily damaged during the collapse of the trade center towers on Sept. 11, 2001.

The Associated Press and CBS News contributed to this report.