NEW YORK CITY-A section of scaffolding surrounding the Deutsche Bank skyscraper being dismantled at the World Trade Center site collapsed today, injuring two firefighters and two construction workers, officials said. Two firefighters died in a blaze at the same building last week. According to reports, a Fire Department spokesman said the scaffolding partially collapsed shortly before 2 p.m. The extent of the injuries are unknown at this time.

Meanwhile, the fire department’s Bureau of Fire Investigations continues to investigate the cause of Saturday’s fire at 130 Liberty St. Fire marshals have not yet reached any conclusions with respect to the cause of the fire at the former Deutsche Bank building. In addition to investigating the cause, BFI is also focusing on the building’s standpipe system, which was required by law to be maintained as the building was being demolished.

The FDNY Safety Command’s investigation into the deaths of firefighters Robert Beddia and Joseph Graffagnino and the department’s response at the scene is also moving forward. According to a government release, commissioner Nicholas Scoppetta has directed that this investigation also examine why the department did not have a pre-fire plan for the building; a fire plan is currently being developed for 130 Liberty St. by the FDNY operations unit. The implementation plan for the deconstruction of the building and the contract between Bovis and the Lower Manhattan Development Corp. also required that a dry standpipe be maintained.

Nonetheless, according to the release, the standpipe could not be used to get water to the fire on Aug. 18, and the Safety Command has concluded that it was not operational before the fire broke out. The rules of the City of New York that pertain to the Fire Department require the FDNY to conduct visual inspections of standpipes located in buildings under demolition every 15 days, a requirement the Safety Command has already determined has not been met. The department continues to investigate why the building’s sprinkler system was not operational.

The mayor’s office tells that they have no further information other than what the release offers. The investigation is ongoing and will involve interviews with agency personnel that may yield additional information.

Anthony Lifrieri, president of BOMA New York, tells that he is not sure if the proper procedures were followed regarding to the 130 Liberty St. building prior to the fire. He does note, however, that “testing is different for occupied buildings and must be completed once a year.”

Bovis Lend Lease, in charge of dismantling the building, which now stands at 26 floors, and its subcontractor, John Galt Corp., is decontaminating/abating the building. Pending the investigations, Bovis Lend Lease has been requested to channel all media enquiries or statements through the New York State authorities; however, it says, “Bovis Lend Lease has and will continue to make ourselves available to all the coordinating agencies from the city and state with their investigations into the cause of the tragic fire this past Saturday at 130 Liberty St.,” adding that “having worked side-by-side with the uniformed workers at Ground Zero, particularly FDNY, in the days and months after 9/11, Bovis extends our deepest sympathies to the families of the deceased fire-fighters and to all the members of the extended FDNY family.” Lend Lease will keep the market advised of further developments.

Since April 2002, FDNY conducted numerous inspections at 130 Liberty St. that included surveillance inspections, inspections in response to complaints from the site–including complaints about the standpipe–and a comprehensive inspection of the building on March 22, 2005. That inspection included a review of all floors, basements, and building systems, including the standpipe, which was determined, based upon that visual inspection, to be in service at that time.

In addition to inspections, the Fire Prevention Code requires that owners of occupied buildings conduct a hydrostatic test of standpipes once every five years, a process that involves fully charging the system with water and utilizing pressure gauges to confirm its suitability for FDNY operations. The last hydrostatic test of the 130 Liberty St. standpipe and sprinkler systems on record was conducted on Nov. 12 and 13, 1996, when both systems were deemed satisfactory. The next hydrostatic test was scheduled for November 2001, two months after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. That test did not occur due to the condition of the building. However, the Fire Department does not require hydrostatic testing for buildings undergoing demolition, such as 130 Liberty St., according to the release.

The Department of Buildings issues permits for building demolitions, including for 130 Liberty St. In a standard deconstruction, a permit is issued to take down an entire building, but in this case, the demolition and abatement operations were going on simultaneously. To ensure the safety of those conducting abatement work, the demolition plan required a four-floor buffer between demolition activity and abatement activity occurring on lower floors. DOB issued permits for the floors to be deconstructed and, due to the complexity of the operation, assigned four rotating full-time building inspectors to the Lower Manhattan Construction Command Center.

As part of the Site Safety Plan approved by the Buildings Department, a licensed site safety manager performs periodic and daily functions as dictated by Appendix A in the Building Code. These functions include conducting visual inspections of standpipes and valves to ensure they are connected to a water source and a siamese connection.

Daily inspections of the floors under deconstruction began on March 19, 2007. The most recent inspection prior to the fire occurred Friday, Aug. 17, 2007. This inspection confirmed that the standpipe was capped on the floor below deconstruction in accordance with the Building Code and that there was no indication of a problem with the standpipe on the floors that were inspected. Since March 2007, DOB has conducted more than 60 inspections of the deconstruction floors of the Deutsche Bank building. During that time, DOB issued six separate Stop Work Orders and 19 violations for conditions such as failure to safeguard public and property and failure to carry out demolition operations in a safe manner.

According to the release, the records of FDNY and DOB inspections show that both agencies conducted numerous inspections of various aspects and portions of the standpipe system at 130 Liberty St. However, it is clear that these inspections did not reveal that the standpipe was not operational as of the outbreak of the fire on Aug. 18. Determining when and precisely how the standpipe became non-operational are among the key questions that the fire marshal’s investigation seeks to answer.

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