104 arrested in NYC for fire code violations

By Adam Goldman
The Associated Press 

AP Photo/Seth Wenig
FDNY firefighters tackle a fire at the former Deutsche Bank tower last August. Fire marshals discovered standpipe problems after two firefighters died.
NEW YORK — City investigators and fire marshals have arrested more than 100 people in a massive sweep targeting business owners, employees and building owners who failed to appear in court on fire code violation summonses.

"We are going to keep going with these, and we are not going to stop making these arrests," Department of Investigation Commissioner Rose Gill Hearn said.

"Ignoring these means we are going to slap the handcuffs on you."

Hearn said this latest batch of arrests began about a week ago.

It's part of a joint effort by the DOI and the Fire Department to crack down on people who ignore criminal summonses for fire code violations, she said.

So far the two agencies have arrested 221 people and issued more than $50,000 in fines.

In this round of arrests, the fines range from $100 to $2,000.  

Hearn said hundreds more face arrest if they don't resolve fire code violations that include failing to maintain a standpipe or sprinkler system, blocking exits, illegally storing propane and having no fire extinguishers.

"The criminal defendants will have to come back to court with proof that they have addressed the violations," Hearn said.

DOI realized that there was a huge backlog of these summonses and started rounding up people beginning in July 2007, Hearn said.

Hearn said the citywide sweep is unusual but said the fire code violations were a serious public safety problem.

"Once we see something, we are not passers-by when it comes to the city," she said.

"This was certainly a system that wasn't working properly."

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