NYPD Overhauls Fire Protocol and May Train With FDNY After Officer Dies

By Katie Honan and Murray Weiss  on April 10, 2014 5:22pm

 Officers embraced each other after the flag lowering ceremony to honor Police Officer Dennis Guerra, who died Wednesday of his injuries sustained during a fire over the weekend.
Officers embraced each other after the flag lowering ceremony to honor Police Officer Dennis Guerra, who died Wednesday of his injuries sustained during a fire over the weekend.
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DNAinfo/Ben Fractenberg

NEW YORK CITY — The police department has overhauled its fire response protocol and is working on plans to provide basic fire training to officers in the wake of a deadly arson fire that killed a seven-year NYPD veteran and critically injured another officer, sources and the NYPD said.

The chief of the department ordered new rules that went into effect immediately, including maintaining communication with fire dispatchers, taking the stairs whenever possible and being mindful of exits when responding to an emergency situation, a source said.

The NYPD confirmed the changes, originally reported by the New York Times, to DNAinfo New York on Thursday. Prior to the directive, there was no protocol for officers responding to a fire.

Additional training from the FDNY is also being considered — a "Fire 101" course that offers insight into fires, which hasn't been done in decades, according to a source.

Police Officer Dennis Guerra, 38, and Police Officer Rosa Rodriguez, 36, were called to 2007 Surf Ave. in Coney Island on Sunday to investigate a mattress fire — and raced up an elevator to the 13th floor, where they were overcome by "acrid smoke quickly filling the hallway," Bratton said in a statement.

They were both unconscious when firefighters arrived, according to the NYPD.

Guerra died days after the incident, and Rodriguez remained hospitalized Thursday in critical condition, officials said.

In a separate incident on Thursday, an NYPD sergeant and an officer were hospitalized with minor smoke inhalation after warning residents of a raging fire in a Williamsburg apartment building, witnesses and sources said.

The day after the Coney Island accident, the FDNY brought three of the NYPD's top brass — Chief of Department Phil Banks, Chief of Detectives Robert Boyce, and Chief of Special Investigations Jeremiah Quinlan — to the hallway where the two officers were overcome with smoke, sources said.

The visit prompted the department to implement major changes, and they are considering bringing FDNY personnel to police departments to provide fundamental information about fires.

“It's a basic ‘Fire 101' course that will inform the [NYPD] about what they should be prepared for or avoid,” a source explained.

Officials are also considering equipping police officers with keys that operate elevators and prevent them from being used during a fire — which the FDNY already has, the source said.

Among other things, the keys disable anyone else from operating an elevator, thereby avoiding someone summoning an elevator while a first responder might be in it.

Marcell Dockery, 16, allegedly set the fire because he was "bored," according to court records and the New York Post.

He was charged with assault, arson and reckless endangerment, according to court records, and is due back in court on Friday.

Police Commissioner William Bratton said the two officers did not break any department protocol by responding to the emergency situation, because there wasn't any.

"We have determined the department has not, does not have, and has not had any policies specific to this issue of going into buildings and utilization of elevators," he told WCBS.

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