Thursday, September 25, 2014

Fire Department still mum on fire escapes

Posted By on Thu, Sep 25, 2014 at 12:09 PM

click to enlarge Fatal fire escape where a 41-year-old Fountain man died in January. - PAM ZUBECK
  • Pam Zubeck
  • Fatal fire escape where a 41-year-old Fountain man died in January.
We got word yesterday that the widow of Pedro Carreno, killed when a fire escape collapsed downtown on Jan. 22, won't pursue a claim or lawsuit against the city of Colorado Springs.

But that apparently doesn't mean we'll learn anything new about whether the death has changed city policy on inspections of fire escapes.

Our story, "Hanging by a thread," which appeared in this week's issue, details what happened on that day, what the Occupational Health and Safety Administration had to say about it, the legal fallout since, and the apparent widespread lack of inspection of fire escapes, many of which date back to the 19th century.

The widow's notice of claim was submitted to the city in mid-June. Here's that letter:

Now, the McDivitt Law Firm, which is representing Patricia Cortez, Carreno's wife, says it considers the claim a dead issue, and issued this statement on Wednesday: 
We never filed a real claim, so there is nothing to dismiss. The Notice of Claim is a notice which the law requires be given in order to preserve the right to sue a governmental agency later. We gave the notice of claim to preserve our right to sue later, but we never filed suit against the city or any city department after further investigation.
Meantime, Cortez has filed suit against the owner and manager of the building where the fire escape collapsed.

It's worth noting that the statute of limitations is two years for a wrongful death case, meaning the deadline for filing such a case is Jan. 21, 2016. In any event, the notice of claim is apparently still on the city's mind. It refuses to allow firefighters to speak publicly about what's happened or not happened with fire escape inspections since the fatality. We shared with the city McDivitt's statement about not pursuing the claim and asked if that statement might jar loose a little information now that the city is apparently off the hook.

City spokeswoman Julie Smith, when asked if the Fire Department could now answer our questions, says via email:  "The City has not received any written notification that McDivitt has withdrawn their notice of claim. Therefore, the City and Fire Department still cannot discuss the matter."

So we can't tell you whether fire escapes are being inspected or not. Ergo, be careful out there. You might want to watch your step if you find yourself needing to use a fire escape in Colorado Springs.

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