Sunday, December 25, 2016

Candles sparked four-alarm fire in Hell’s Kitchen high-rise that injured 23 people

Candles sparked Hell’s Kitchen high-rise fire that nearly killed 7-year-old girl, injured 23 people

Fire burns through West Side high-rise
NY Daily News

BY Molly Crane-newman Graham Rayman
Updated: Saturday, December 24, 2016, 4:15 AM

The raging fire in a Hell’s Kitchen high-rise that injured 23 people was sparked by candles, the FDNY said Friday.

A 7-year-old girl is in critical condition and two babies, each about 1, were hospitalized in serious condition after Thursday’s four-alarm blaze on W. 59th St. near 10th Ave., the FDNY tweeted.

Flames ignited in a third-floor apartment where a woman was wrapping Christmas presents in a bathrobe near candles, FDNY Manhattan Borough Commander Chief Roger Sakowich said.

What that woman did once she saw her bathrobe was smoking led to the fire spreading, Sakowich explained.

“She removed the clothing and threw that on the couch ... and then left the apartment, and in doing so she left the door open,” he said.

The apartment’s smoke alarm was not working, officials said.

“The apartment was incinerated,” a source said. “The public hallway, and ultimately the stairwell, they both became contaminated.”

Many of the 21 injuries happened because people fled their fire-safe apartments, rather than remain inside, officials said. 
Heavy smoke trapped many residents on upper floors. At least 10 people had to be rescued after retreating to the roof of the 33-story tower.

Their injuries could have been totally avoided had they just stayed inside, Mancuso said.

Firefighters load an injured person into an ambulance Thursday during the fire at the Hell's Kitchen apartment building. (Andres Kudacki/AP)

"You should stay put in the apartment. You should put something under the door, keep the smoke out, go to your window, get air, call 911.”

The 7-year-old girl overcome by smoke was revived by fast-acting neighbors who performed CPR and medics who rushed to the scene. She remains hospitalized in critical but stable condition, with her mom by her side, Mancuso said.

By Friday morning, most of the patients had been treated and released but among those still hospitalized were four firefighters, officials said.

All of the fire’s victims are expected to survive.

"The firemen were great, absolutely fantastic," said resident Diane Murgia. "It's (the smoke damage) pretty bad on some floors."

The building is home to residents and doctors with Mount Sinai St. Luke’s Hospital.

Sarah Lyles, 66, lived in the building for 25 years until she retired from nursing earlier this year.

She said a friend living on the 31st floor told her some tenants were told to go up on the roof.

“She was on the roof for about two hours," she said. "Finally, she was told she was able to safely return. And then, every 15 minutes or so, the Fire Department or the Police Department was knocking on their doors to make sure everything was alright. She was kind of distraught."

A burnt hallway on the third floor of the building Thursday after firefighters extinguished the four-alarm blaze. (Andres Kudacki/AP)

Mancuso advised against going to the roof.

“All the heat and gas are at the top of the stairwell, so you don't want to do that,” he said. “You want to stay put in your apartment ... Most people die from leaving their apartment than staying put in the apartment."

Mancuso said that while management install fire alarms in apartments, it's the tenants’ responsibility, not the landlords, to make sure they are maintained.

He said the biggest causes of fire are candles, cooking fires, smoking, and electric.

He also warned against plugging space heaters into power strips or extension cords — safest to plug directly into the wall.

Lyles said the close-knit building is like a family. "Everyone comes together and helps everybody out," she said. "We make sure everyone is OK. It's not like your typical luxury high-rise."

Lyles said she was obligated under the terms of her lease to move out when she retired, but she wanted to stay.

"I feel a little bit like the lucky passenger on a doomed flight," she said of missing the fire. "It could have been worse."

Candle fires peak on Christmas Eve, followed by New Years Day and Christmas Day.

Candle fires peak on Christmas Eve, followed by New Years Day and Christmas Day.

While other causes for home fires have decreased, the percentage caused by candles has tripled in the past ten years. It’s important to remember to be safe when you’re lighting candles for any of your celebrations this holiday season.

More than a third of candle fires occurred when the candles were left unattended or abandoned. Around a quarter of the fires occurred because something combustible was too close to the flame.

Consider using battery-operated, flameless candles, which can look, smell and feel like real candles.

If you do burn candles, make your home safer by:
  • Using candles with flame protective non-combustible shades or globes.
  • Use a sturdy metal, glass or ceramic candle holder.
  • Place candles away from curtains, draperies, decorations, blinds and bedding.
  • Put candles out before you leave the room.
  • Never leave candles unattended.
  • In case of an emergency, do not use candles to light your home.
  • One third of people killed in candle fires were using them for light because they did not have power.
  • Be prepared by having flashlights and batteries in your home.
  • Have the flashlights accessible in the kitchen and bedroom.
  • You should also carry a flashlight in your car and a small light with you at all times.

The general contractor, an additional insured on the subcontractor’s policy, was not entitled to coverage for construction defect claims that arose after completion of the project. Weitz Co. v. Acuity

Additional Insured Not Entitled to Coverage for Post-Completion Defects
Posted on December 23, 2016

The general contractor, an additional insured on the subcontractor’s policy, was not entitled to coverage for construction defect claims that arose after completion of the project. Weitz Co. v. Acuity, 2016 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 150433 (S.D. Ohio Oct. 31, 2016).

Weitz was the general contractor hired by Twin Lakes for construction of a residential community. One of the subcontractors, Miter Masonry, was insured by Acuity under a CGL policy. Work on the project began in 2002 and was substantially completed in 2005. In 2011, Twin Lakes notified Weitz that there were moisture infiltration issues at the project that may be related to work during the project.

Twin Lakes filed a Demand for Arbitration against Weitz on November 30, 2012. Twin Lakes alleged that the defects included the building wrap, windows, doors, wood trim, aluminum wrap, vinyl siding, flashing and brick veneer not being installed in accordance with contract documents and/or industry standards. The arbitration panel awarded damages to Twin Lakes in the amount of $2,775,771.86. The panel found that Weitz breached sections of the contract which caused moisture intrusion and damage to all the units. The panel ultimately held that Weitz could recover from the subcontractors 100% of the $2,775,771.86 awarded. Acuity’s insured, Miter Masonry, was determined to be 4% at fault for the damages.

Weitz sued Acuity, arguing it was entitled to a defense and indemnity against the claims asserted by Twin Lakes. The policy included an “Additional Insured – Completed Operations” endorsement. The endorsement provided coverage for an additional insured for whom the insured was to perform operations. Coverage was limited, however, to liability included in the products-completed operations hazard for property damage caused by the insured’s work. The policy defined products-completed operations hazard as “all . . . property damage occurring away from premises you own or rent and arising out of your product or your work except work that has not yet been completed or abandoned.”

Weitz moved for summary judgment seeking a ruling that Acuity owed a defense in the arbitration. The motion was denied. The first time Weitz provided notice of property damage to Acuity was on June 30, 2011, several years after the project was completed. Additional insured coverage was limited for completed operations and did not apply to:

Bodily injury or property damage that occurs after the time period during which the contract or agreement described in item 1 requires you to add such person or organization onto your policy as an additional insured for completed operations . . .

Weitz’s claims for additional insured coverage failed because there was no evidence that the alleged property damage occurred within the time limit specified in the policy. In the subcontract between Weitz and Miter, the subcontractor was required to continue CGL coverage for at least two years following final payment to the Contractor in connection with the project. 

The “Additional Insured – Completed Operations” endorsement did not apply to property damage occurring after two years following final payment to the contractor in connection with the project. Final payment to Weitz was on July 31, 2005, when the project was completed. There was no evidence that the alleged property damage occurred before the expiration of the two-year period. Therefore, Weitz was not entitled to additional insured coverage, and Acuity had not duty to defend or indemnify Weitz.

The court further noted that under Ohio law, there was no allegation of property damage. The Arbitration Panel specifically found that Weitz failed to perform in a workmanlike manner. Moreover, Weitz breached its contract with Twin Lakes, causing the moisture intrusion and the resulting damage to all the units. The claims of defective workmanship brought by a property owner were not claims for “property damage” caused by an “occurrence” under Ohio law.