Burning Questions in West Philly Apartment Complex Fire

Searching for answers in the rubble of the disaster at Windermere Court.

By Tara Murtha
Add Comment Add Comment | Comments: 9 | Posted Feb. 23, 2011

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There’s another rumor that ex-residents bribed maintenance men and security guards to retrieve some of their possessions.

When asked who had decision-making authority between the third and fifth week after the fire, Reimert isn’t sure.

“I would have to check into that for you because I’m not clear on that timeline myself,” she said.

This morning, Reimert issued a statement: "I know that the owners are especially pleased that a recovery effort was able to happen last week and that they were able, by working with a demolition crew at their own expense, to get important belongings back into the hands of well over 50 tenants.  With that process now complete, the owners are again working in conjunction with the City and others to confirm an appropriate schedule for the demolition of the building and that is expected to be determined this week."

Lost Cats

With animals involved, the blame-game circle widens.

Not every cat owner was as lucky as former resident Michelle Kreisher, who says she’s grateful firefighter Jones was able to rescue her cat Norman one of two sweeps the firemen did of the building after the blaze.

No one is sure exactly how many pet cats were missing after the fire, but City Kitties says they have been notified of at least eleven.

The brunt of the blame on the street is split between the PSPCA and Philadelphia’s County Animal Rescue Team (PHL-CART). PHL-CART is the local chapter of a statewide program established and funded by the Federal Emergency Management Agency after Hurricane Katrina.

Every county in Pennsylvania has a CART organization. Even though the state administrative umbrella (SART) is a non-profit organization, the local chapter is managed by the Office of Emergency Management (OEM).

Jen Leary, local coordinator for PHL-CART, says she received many calls and emails the night of the fire from people expecting CART to intervene, as they do in Bucks and Montgomery counties.

“I did receive numerous calls and emails from people who expected CART to be able to help but we cannot self deploy,” says Leary.

The first problem is that even though PHL-CART was established a few years ago, it really only exists mostly on paper still. “We’re still very much in process of recruiting volunteers,” concedes Samantha Phillips, Assistant Management Director of the OEM, who oversees PHL-CART.

But to clarify, Phillips says that even if CART was up and running, the organization would not have been on the scene at Windermere.

“CART wasn’t involved because the number of animals that were identified at the Windermere fire is something that PSPCA could have handled,” says Phillips.

In other words, because CART is managed under the city, and the city employs an animal control contract, PSPCA as the animal control vendor is the first responder. She says the role of PHL-CART is to provide an emergency animal-rescue plan designed for catastrophic-level disaster as big as Katrina, not a fire in an apartment complex. (Though Phillips says the plan exists, it is not public.)

“It would take a lot to further overwhelm PSCPA and Animal Care and Control Team and since they’re 24/7 and have the resources available to respond to 99 percent of the emergency responses we have in Philadelphia, they are the first line in emergency animal care,” says Phillips.

But PSPCA says protocol is the other way around.

“I would disagree,” says Wendy Marano, PSPCA spokesperson. “We have to be summoned by someone and it’s the fire department or police or OEM.”

“Our folks are pretty clear about this,” continues Marano. “One of the things they have to worry about on site is the flurry of activity and the spectators. With all that going on, the last thing we would want to do as an organization is come in and add to the chaos.”

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COMMENTS

Comments 1 - 9 of 9
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1. phillyskyline said... on Feb 23, 2011 at 01:51PM

“"“It would take a lot to further overwhelm PSCPA and Animal Care and Control Team and since they’re 24/7 and have the resources available to respond to 99 percent of the emergency responses we have in Philadelphia, they are the first line in emergency animal care,” says Phillips."

Is Ms. Phillips joking? ACCT is underfunded, overwhelmed, and is absolutely not available 24/7. I don't know where she got her information, but it's 100% wrong.

It's shocking that these two agencies (OEM and PSPCA/ACCT) are too busy pointing fingers to sit down and come up with an effective, meaningful emergency protocol for animals. Does Ms. Phillips realize that Windermere tenants' pets suffered because of her inaction? If so, she certainly doesn't seem to care.

Ms. Phillips, consider yourself on notice. Philadelphians' (exorbitant) taxes pay your salary, and we intend to force you to do your job.”

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2. Anonymous said... on Feb 23, 2011 at 04:19PM

“What Bull. If Nutter had wanted to help those animals he could have. And so could George Bengal and the PSPCA. Cannot believe they missed a chance to rush in, grab some press then kill all the animals they "rescued." That's what they usually do.
ANd oh yeah....where has the press been???”

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3. Anonymous said... on Feb 23, 2011 at 06:24PM

“this is disgusting and a disgrace”

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4. Anonymous said... on Feb 23, 2011 at 06:33PM

“the spca cant even respond to half the routine calls and cruelty complaints in the city now thats a bunch of bull, they cant handle anymore work. look at the great job they did here .”

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5. AnimalWelfare said... on Feb 23, 2011 at 07:39PM

“If you are not getting the justice, then over step the mayor, and the others, by appealing to the state. If you truly want something done, call your state representatives, and speak about animal welfare - animals have hearts, emotions, bond with their owners, they are scared and feel abandoned. Work at the hearts of the politicians, and do not make it just a few of you, gather as much public support as you can. Call the Cat Rescues and the animal adoption agencies (NOT SPCA or any humane facilities). I bear to think of what the animal are feeling - abandoned, scared and unloved.”

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6. Anonymous said... on Feb 24, 2011 at 10:21AM

“Nutter is a disgrace. I politely, yes very politely, called his office to voice my opinion about the Windemere cats and I got the run around. Not only that, but his office was outrageously rude. I voted for him the first time, but I certainly won't be voting for him again! No way, no how!”

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7. Anonymous said... on Mar 14, 2011 at 09:10PM

“Nutter is absolutely awful! First, my animals are like my children. I would accept jail time by unlawfully entering that building to rescue an animal. I'd later go to every news channel and explain my story. Nutter should have done everything in his power to help those animals in need. He's going to lose a lot of votes next race. I hope Philadelphians are smart and elect someone new.”

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8. Kathleen W. said... on Mar 15, 2011 at 08:00PM

“The city of Philadelphia did a horrible job in this case. These animals needed help & nothing was done. My cats are my children, & I would have done ANYTHING to get them out of that apartment. I feel so sorry for all the suffering that happened due to the lack of caring from the city.”

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9. Anonymous said... on Jun 3, 2011 at 09:05AM

“The situation with PCART Phila County Animal Rescue Team is a disgrace. Every other CART in the State has a fully equipped trailer. However, in Philly the trailer is assigned to the overworked and overstreatched PSPCA. The willing and highly trained volunteers of PCART have nothing in the way of equipment. It's no wonder that PCART loses it volunteers faster than they can train new volunteers. In the end, the animals and the people who love them are given the shaft by the City of Philadelphia.

I am blessed to live in Bucks County where we have a well staffed, well equipped and well managed CART. Philly is a disgrace!”

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