For Immediate Release: Wednesday, March 16, 2022
Legislation Will Empower the Fire Administration to Help Investigate Deadly Fires & Provide Recommendations for Fire Prevention; Will Be Championed in the Senate by Senators Gillibrand & Schumer
Washington, D.C. – Today, Rep. Ritchie Torres (NY-15), Rep. Haley Stevens (MI-11), Rep. Peter Meijer (MI-3), and Rep. Anthony Gonzalez (OH-16) introduced new bipartisan federal legislation to permit the United States Fire Administration (USFA) to assist local firefighter investigators after a major fire. The “Empowering the U.S. Fire Administration Act” (HR 7077) comes as a result of the recent Twin Parks North West apartment building fire in the Bronx that took the lives of 17 New Yorkers. It is part of a federal legislative package to solve the underlying issues that caused the deadly fire and prevent future tragedies.
The legislation would authorize the USFA to send safety specialists, fire protection engineers, codes and standards experts, researchers, and fire training specialists to collaborate and assist local firefighter investigators in their investigation. The bill also requires the USFA to issue a report in coordination with federal, state, and local authorities on their findings and to provide recommendations to federal, state, and local officials to implement to prevent similar fires from occurring in the future.
“It’s been two months since the horrific fire at Twin Parks North West, and the Bronx community is still reeling from the loss of 17 individuals,” said Rep. Torres. “Tragic fires like Twin Parks North West are not isolated cases. We have seen similar fires occur in other cities throughout the country, and it is past time for the federal government to sit by and do nothing. That is why I am proud to introduce the ‘Empowering the U.S. Fire Administration Act.’ This legislation will allow the USFA to have their fire specialists on the ground working with our local firefighters to investigate and issue recommendations on how to prevent fires like Twin Parks North West from happening again. This bill also complements other fire safety legislation I introduced in the House to prevent future fire tragedies.”
“In Michigan, we experienced a significant rise in fire-related deaths during the first month of 2022. Unfortunately, the Bureau of Fire Services reported that these increased fires were all preventable. That is why I am joining my colleagues in introducing the ‘Empowering the U.S. Fire Administration Act.’ This bill would unlock the expertise of federal fire safety specialists and engineers to collaborate and assist local firefighter investigators after a major fire incident in their community. The bill also looks forward by offering recommendations to prevent similar fires from occurring in the future,” said Rep. Stevens.
“Unfortunately, deadly fires are not uncommon, and too often they devastate families and communities,” said Rep. Meijer. “This bill will help establish better coordination at the federal level to investigate these fires and ultimately prevent them from occurring. If we can resolve the underlying issues that make these tragedies more likely, we can save lives. I’m proud to help lead this bipartisan legislative effort.”
“There is a clear need to ensure that every community has the resources and knowledge to protect itself during a fire as well as adequate support to recover after a fire,” said Rep. Gonzalez. “By facilitating greater integration between local communities and federal partners, this legislation will improve communities’ ability to analyze fires and develop strategies capable of reducing the number of fires and their severity in the future. I’m pleased to join my colleagues in introducing this legislation that will save lives and infrastructure.”
“It should not take a tragedy like the Twin Parks North West apartments fire for us to act to protect members of our community,” said NY Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand. “That is why I am proud to introduce the Empowering the U.S. Fire Administration Act, which would allow the U.S. Fire Administration to not only assist local firefighter investigations, but to also provide the necessary resources to help them prevent future incidents.”
“I stand with Rep. Torres and the Bronx community in continuing to gather support and push for this reform package, including giving our federal fire officials the power to team up with our FDNY heroes on investigations that can help spur national safety standards,” said NY Sen. Chuck Schumer.
The “Empowering the U.S. Fire Administration Act” (HR 7077) joins a broader fire safety legislative package introduced by Rep. Torres in the House of Representatives. The package includes:
- HR 6615: requires a universal safety standard for space heaters,
- HR 6529: requires all federally-funded rental residential buildings to have self-closing doors,
- HR 6528: requires all federally-funded rental residential buildings to have heat sensors.
The “Empowering the U.S. Fire Administration Act” is supported by the NYC Fire Department, International Association of Fire Chiefs, and the International Association of Fire Fighters.
“The tragedy at Twin Parks North West in the Bronx was one of the worst fires our city has ever seen, claiming 17 lives, and seriously injuring dozens of residents,” said Acting NY Fire Commissioner Laura R. Kavanagh. “Through investigations and education, we can prevent future tragedies. Knowing that our Firefighters and Fire Marshals have the full support of the federal government and the U.S. Fire Administration is a tremendous asset to the FDNY and the millions of New Yorkers we serve. I want to thank Representative Torres and his fellow committee members for their support of the FDNY.”
“I thank Representatives Torres, Stevens, Meijer, and Gonzalez for introducing the ‘Empowering the U.S. Fire Administration Act,’” said Chief Kenneth W. Stuebing, BHSc, President and Board Chair of the International Association of Fire Chiefs. “This bill would authorize the U.S. Fire Administration to examine the cause of tragic fires and share lifesaving information with local governments and the public to prevent future tragedies. The IAFC urges Congress to pass this bill.”
“The recent series of deadly fires, including the tragedy at the Twin Parks apartment which claimed 17 lives, highlights the need to better investigate and prevent fatal fires. We continue to see an unacceptable number of deaths and injuries among firefighters and the general public,” said General President Edward Kelly of the International Association of Fire Fighters. “Allowing the US Fire Administration to assist with fire investigations will help identify lessons learned to better avert future disasters. The IAFF thanks Reps. Torres, Stevens, Meijer, and Gonzalez for their leadership on this important issue, and I urge Congress to prioritize the safety of firefighters and the general public alike by passing this important legislation.”