The survivors of two fallen Buffalo firefighters are in line to receive settlements totaling $4.1 million following a vote Wednesday by a panel of city lawmakers.
Lt. Charles W. “Chip” McCarthy and Jonathan S. Croom died in a fire in a Genesee Street deli in August 2009.
At the time of his death, Croom was the father of an infant, and his fiancee was expecting. His children are set to receive $3 million. McCarthy left a wife and three adult children, and his survivors are set to receive $1.1 million.
The Common Council’s Claims Committee voted to recommend that the full Council approve the settlements when it meets April 2.
As part of the settlement, the city has agreed to change its policies, or follow those in place more closely, in an attempt to prevent a similar incident, though Croom’s mother raised questions about that pledge.
Maria Heusinger said in a separate interview Wednesday that she sincerely hopes the city will live up to the agreement to maintain safer working conditions for firefighters as the settlement requires.
“I’ve spoken to some firefighters who have not seen these changes of upgraded equipment in their firehouses,” Heusinger said, citing her long-standing request for an accountability officer to be on the scene to keep track of firefighters entering and leaving burning structures.
“If there had been an accountability officer the night my son was killed, it would have made a major difference,” she said.
Meanwhile, McCarthy’s family members have expressed gratitude that the safety improvements “found their way into the settlement agreement from their lawsuit against the city,” said their attorney, Thomas H. Burton.
The city has purchased thermal-imaging cameras, developed procedures to deal with basement fires and improved its communications systems in an effort to prevent a similar tragedy from happening, Corporation Counsel Timothy A. Ball told lawmakers.
The fire engulfed a rambling building that held a deli, basement warehouse and apartments. McCarthy went back into the building believing someone was trapped in the basement and fell through the floor of the deli. Croom also fell into the basement.
Heusinger said she is trying to start a local chapter of National Fallen Firefighters.
“Their primary goal is to support safety and prevention,” she said. Anyone interested in working with Heusinger can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
News Staff Reporter Lou Michel contributed to this report. email: email@example.com