2010-06-09 / Front Page

Following Fire, Vallone Wants Sprinklers In Pet Stores

by john toscano

City Councilmember Peter Vallone Jr. is calling for sprinklers to be installed in every pet store in New York City following a recent fire in a Steinway Street pet shop in which some birds perished.

Firefighters from Ladder 116 in Long Island City and Engine Company 262 in Astoria saved almost all of the animals in the fire in the U.S. Pet Discount store despite being delayed because rolldown security gates obscured the addresses at some locations wrongly given by callers to 911.

Firefighters finally located the fire by searching the rear of some buildings on Steinway Street between Broadway and 31st Avenue, Vallone said. Then they were further delayed because they had to cut through security locks to force their way into the store. They saved many animals, but birds are highly susceptible to smoke inhalation and those in the store perished.

Once the fire was extinguished, Vallone praised the firefighters for their efforts in finding the fire, saving the animals, and extinguishing the blaze.

“Once again we are reminded of the exceptional bravery of our firefighters under the most extreme circumstances, but their swift action saved the lives of helpless caged pets,” Vallone said. “However, even more animals may have been saved if our firefighters hadn’t been delayed by a solid security gate.”

Vallone, chairman of the council Public Safety Committee, sponsored a law last year which calls for phasing out solid security gates from storefronts in the city. Under that law, after July 1, 2011, at least 70 percent of all rolldown gates installed in city storefronts must be “see-through” so police officers and firefighters can view the inside of the store.

Vallone said the NYPD and the firefighters had supported the legislation because it improved safety conditions for their members. Vallone noted, “First responders often do not know where the danger lies when called to a location blocked by a solid security gate, as was clearly evident in this case.”

Vallone continued, “The next step is for Albany to mandate sprinklers in all pet stores, and if they don’t do it, I will. No more animals should die because pet store owners are too cheap to install sprinklers.”

Vallone’s proposed legislation will mandate sprinklers in any establishment that houses animals for a 24-hour period, he said.

As for the blaze in the U.S. Pet Discount Store, Vallone said two firefighters from Engine 262 were injured extinguishing the fire. One was treated for burns and the other suffered injuries from a partial roof collapse. Vallone said he would present the injured firefighters with citations.

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