Monday, February 28, 2011

Voodoo Reporting

On Saturday the local tabs did return to the story of the fatal Flatbush fire-but not as we hoped. Neither the NY Post nor the NY Daily News-or the NY Times, for that matter-went back to examine whether or not the city's reduced manning policies played a role in the tragedy. Not when you can introduce the possibility that voodoo sex had something to do with fire-and both the Post and the News felt this was front page importance.

Here's the Post's sensational lede: "A wild candlelit sex ritual between a Brooklyn woman and her voodoo priest got so hot and heavy, they ended up torching their clothes and sheets -- sparking the nasty fire that killed a retired teacher and left 100 people homeless last week, sources said yesterday."

The News chimes in: "A Voodoo sex romp triggered the Brooklyn blaze that killed one person and left dozens homeless when a ceremony meant to bring good luck went horribly wrong, sources said yesterday." The Times account was, as expected, a bit less lurid: "A fatal five-alarm fire that roared through a building in Flatbush, Brooklyn, last Saturday was ignited by candles arrayed around a bed for a voodoo ceremony, Fire Department officials said Friday."

Now we don't really blame the papers for reporting this-it is all quite juicy, after all. But we do expect that the press might want to focus on a critical management issue that could, if not altered, lead to more fire fatalities in the future. Only the News even bothered to mention this issue: "The firefighters union said staffing cuts contributed to the spread of the fire, but Fire Commissioner Salvatore Cassano, without referring to the couple having sex, blamed other errors. "This fire had so many of those elements - candles left on the floor near combustible material, one of the occupants trying to douse the flames before calling 911, and an open door, which allowed fire to spread into the hallway," Cassano said. "Hopefully others will learn from this tragedy."

We can imagine that Commissioner Cassono was relieved to have  a sensational action as the proximate cause of the blaze-and we have no doubt that the failures of the occupants of the apartment played a role in the tragic results. But to state this, and this alone, is to fail to further explain that irresponsibility is all too often at the root of why fires are started-but this has absolutely nothing to do with the failure to control the blaze that led to a woman perishing; along with a total building demolition.

In our view, the manning issue is a critical one-and it points to the failure of the management priorities of the Bloombergistas. This is an administration that added 16,000 more personnel to the DOE, leading to a grand total of 23% of our high school graduates being college ready-yet it wants to pinch pennies on fire truck manning where lives are at risk.

We notice that Commissioner Cassano left out entirely any possibility that the failure to control the fire might have been a result of management failures-both manning and command decisions in the minutes leading up to the eventual fatality. That is why a thorough investigation is needed, and if the fire unions are proven correct, we can put the death of  Mary Feagin right up there with the snowfu and CityTime scandals-more evidence of just how egregious it was for the mayor to usurp a third term.