Fire Victim Files Claim Against New York

One of four survivors of a fatal apartment fire in Queens last November, has filed a claim against the city alleging that a dispatching error contributed to his burn injuries. Shafin Ahhamed has incurred over $50,000 in medical bills for treatment of his injuries. The November 7, 2009 fire claimed the lives of three Bangladeshi nationals, and seriously injured several others.

The dispatching error was attributed to a typo sending units to 62nd Steet instead of 65th Street. Ahhamed’s is claiming the mistake led to a 15 minute delay, while FDNY reports indicate the mistake was promptly discovered resulting in a total response time of just under 5 minutes. He says that as a result he was force to try to rescue the trapped victims and was injured in the process.

Reports say that the occupants’ escape was blocked by construction materials, and smoke detectors in the building were non-functional. Ahhamed’s claim described the apartment building a nuisance and firetrap and accuses the Department of Buildings (DOB) of failing to inspect the building properly and the fire department for negligence in dispatching procedures and for failing to put out the fire quickly enough. The claim is essentially a procedural requirement to formally put the city of notice of the allegations prior to suit being filed. The city would have the option of settling the claim at this point, but as a matter of course that is not likely to happen.

It appears that the apartment building was illegally converted from a two family into a five-family dwelling by creating seven additional rooms out of existing space. The top floor was subdivided into two living units with a total of three bedrooms and the basement had four bedrooms. The three victims who died were in the basement at the time of the fire, which had only one way out. The tragedy caused the DOB to issue several violations.

About Curt Varone

Curt Varone has over 40 years of fire service experience and 30 as a practicing attorney licensed in both Rhode Island and Maine. His background includes 29 years as a career firefighter in Providence (retiring as a Deputy Assistant Chief), as well as volunteer and paid on call experience. He is the author of two books: Legal Considerations for Fire and Emergency Services, (2006, 2nd ed. 2011, 3rd ed. 2014) and Fire Officer's Legal Handbook (2007), and is a contributing editor for Firehouse Magazine writing the Fire Law column.

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