The Fire Department is investigating whether standpipes failed to bring firefighters water to help fight a seven-alarm fire that broke out on the 17th floor of the Deutsche Bank building on Saturday. The cause of the fire, which spread between the 14th and 26th floors of the lower Manhattan building, is also unclear, though the FDNY suspects it may have been caused by a cigarette or a faulty electrical panel.

FDNY officials suspect that a standpipe, which brings water to buildings, may have had a broken or cracked valve, according to WABC 7. Further, the polyurethane used to keep toxic dust from escaping onto the street during during the Deutsche Bank building's dismantling (the building was contaminated after the World Trade Center towers collapsed) actually "fed the flames" and were an obstacle to effectively fighting the fire.

Two firefighters, Joe Graffagnino and Robert Beddia, died from smoke inhalation when their oxygen tanks ran empty. Beddia yelled on his radio, "We're running out of air!"; a source tells the Post there were also radio transmission problems. The NY Times reports that one fire official was recorded cursing as "he did not care about the building, and shouted, 'Where are my men?'" Governor Spitzer said, "They walked into a horror show. If the building had been deconstructed by now, clearly this tragedy would not have occurred."


However, a spokesman for the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation, which owns the building, said, "This is not a building you can just take a wrecking ball to. Every floor has to be thoroughly cleaned and monitored by regulators before it can be deconstructed. And that process takes a tremendous amount of time." Spitzer and the LMDC have promised investigations, but residents in the area were upset. One told the NY Times, "You’d think that after six years, we would have learned something, but when this fire broke out, there was no notification system in place, and the people who live around here didn’t know what to do."

And they are also skeptical of the government's claims that the air is safe; Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer pointed out, "Residents were told after 9/11 that air was safe. "Well, we found out how untrue that was." And the executive director of the NY Environmental Law & Justice Project says the government has "no right to tell people it's safe. It's a fire in the most contaminated building in the city.

The Sun reports that Bovis Lend Lease, the contractors in charge of the dismantling, had a $6 million incentive to finish the job by the end of the year. Two months ago, JP Morgan Chase announced it would build a new tower on some of the Deutsche Bank's lot; Chase told the Sun it was still interested in building there. And in May, a 15-foot section of steam pipe fell from the Deutsche Bank buildingthrough the roof of a neighboring firehouse, injuring two firefighters. The subcontractor, John Galt Corporation, has had a number of work violations.

The NY Times has a graphic of where the fire occurred.

Top photograph of workers examining the Deutsche Bank building yesterday by Seth Wenig/AP; lower photograph of firefighters leaving a rooftop on Saturday during the fire by Eric Hazard