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Family sues New York City for negligent response to house fire

Many of the amenities we usually take for granted are actually quite amazing. Utilities like water, heat and electricity make it possible to live as we do, yet we almost never see the work that goes on to bring such utilities to our homes and apartments.

That being said, these infrastructure systems sometimes fail, and when they do, the results can be disastrous. One family who formerly lived in Brooklyn recently filed a lawsuit against the city of New York for how it mishandled an emergency call related to a 2013 house fire. As a result of the fire and the allegedly delayed response, one person died and others suffered serious and permanent injuries, including burns.

The plaintiffs, who now live in Queens, allege that the firefighters arrived later than they should have because they received inaccurate directions to the home. They were delayed because they initially tried to reach the property by driving down a dead-end street.

To make matters even worse, the fire hydrant nearest to the home was allegedly broken. According to the complaint, firefighters tried to use the nearest hydrant but no water came out. They lost valuable time by looking for and connecting to a hydrant farther away from the house.

The plaintiffs say that the city negligently failed to repair the broken hydrant and gave inaccurate directions to the firefighters responding to the call. They are seeking $500 million in damages.

We often don't give a second thought to certain pieces of infrastructure, including fire hydrants. But we have to trust that cities are regularly inspecting and maintaining these critical safety features. When city officials ignore these responsibilities, it can have deadly consequences.

Source: Courthouse News Service, "New York City Blamed for Fatal Brooklyn Fire," Nick Divito, Jan. 29, 2015

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