Suit Over Deadly Fire

Copyright 2002 Newsday, Inc.
Newsday (New York, NY)...08/09/2002

By Joshua Robin. STAFF WRITER

The widows of two firefighters killed on Father's Day last year have sued the city and an Astoria hardware store that burned down, asking for $ 30 million each.

An additional four firefighters and their wives are also named as plaintiffs in the suit, which was filed in State Supreme Court in Queens. They ask for $ 11 million each for serious personal injuries.

The suit alleges that the Long Island General Supply Co. illegally stored hazardous tanks in its basement leading to an explosion and the collapse of a wall on June 17, 2001. It also accuses the city of improper firefighting techniques that resulted in the deaths of Harry Ford, 50, and Brian Fahey, 46.

"These brave firefighters gave their lives, and those who survived were seriously injured, because of outrageous conditions in that store," said Michael Block, the attorney for Denise Ford and Mary Fahey, as well as firefighters Timothy Geraghty, Timothy Murphy, Gary Giannone and Brian Kearney.

The suit also alleges that the store disabled a fire-preventing door, and it accuses the store's owners of "causing and permitting illegal and excessive amounts of dangerous and flammable chemicals ... to remain in the premises."

Harry Ford and Brian Fahey were killed with another firefighter, John Downing, in the blaze, which was determined to have begun when a 13-year-old boy accidentally knocked over a can of gasoline behind the store while drawing graffiti. Investigators concluded vapors from the gas were ignited by a water heater in the store's basement, sparking the fire.

Downing's widow, Anne, is not named as a plaintiff in the suit. Her lawyer, Andrew Weitz, said he plans to file a separate lawsuit shortly.

Gerard Misk, attorney for the store, declined comment on the lawsuit, saying he had not yet read it. A Fire Department spokesman declined to comment on the lawsuit.