By Web staff
BALTIMORE, Maryland (WJZ) — The relatives of three Baltimore firefighters killed in a vacant house collapse this year, and a firefighter who was seriously injured, plan to sue the city and the State of Maryland, their attorneys said.
Miller and Stern Lawyers said in a letter of intent Wednesday that the deadly fire and collapse on Stricker Street in January were the result of the “negligence” of the city and state.
On Jan. 24, fire crews were called to the scene of a two-alarm fire at a rowhouse on South Stricker Street. A partial building collapse trapped six firefighters inside.
Lt. Paul Butrim, firefighter/paramedic Kelsey Sadler, and EMT/firefighter Kenny Lacayo were killed in the collapse. Two were pulled to safety, while EMT/firefighter John McMaster was hospitalized with serious injuries for three days before being released.
The firm said in its notice the defendants may allege negligence by the plaintiffs for failing to demolish or safely secure the vacant building, the mismanagement of money and violations of constitutional protections.
Personal injury, wrongful death and survivor claims exceed $10,000,000, the attorneys said.
“This claim is about more than money and requires change at the highest levels within the City of Baltimore, State of Maryland and our elected officials,” the attorneys said.
Sadler’s husband, Brandon, said in a press conference Thursday he hopes the legal action might save other families from the pain he feels.
“Nobody should have to go through this” he said. “And it’s miserable. And we live it every day and I will live this every day for the rest of my life. And I don’t want anyone else have to deal with this, or their children, or anybody. So something’s got to change.”
Baltimore Fire Chief Niles Ford resigned last week before the release of a Board of Inquiry report that made dozens of findings and recommendations to prevent another tragedy.
Among the dozens of findings in the 314-page report are flags for deficiencies in certain training, lapses in communication and difficulties in controlling the scene after the collapse.
The board also noted that units entered the burning building despite “signs of a previous fire and structural instability,” and recommended that “proper scene size ups” be made before interior firefighting is done.
Notably, the board learned of a “competitive culture” within the department in its interviews with members. It also found that some members of the department did not feel comfortable or empowered to speak up on accountability issues with senior members.
One recommendation by the board was for the city to reinstate its “Code X-Ray” program, in which the city marks vacant buildings that are deemed unsafe to enter. The program was discontinued in 2013.
The attorneys in their letter listed the elimination of the Code X-Ray program as one of the ways the devastation could have been avoided.
“While the line of duty report highlights several failures by Baltimore City and the Baltimore City Fire Department, it is not the complete story and is far from the accountability expected,” the attorney’s notice said.
Mayor Brandon Scott said last Friday his administration will establish an accountability program to ensure the board’s numerous recommendations in the report are properly implemented.
In April, the firefighters’ deaths were ruled homicides, and the fire that led to their deaths was classified as incendiary. Despite the release of images of a person of interest, no arrests have been announced.
This is a developing story and will be updated.
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