Services set for boy whose death in fire inflamed debate over city cutbacks

Posted: August 13, 2010

Funeral services are Friday for the 12-year-old boy killed in a West Philadelphia fire Saturday that also injured his mother and two firefighters.

Frank Marasco was found in the second-floor of his rowhouse Saturday evening, following a fire that began around 6:50 p.m. The boy was described as autistic, and fire officials said he resisted attempts to coax him out of his home during the fire. The incident inflamed the debate over the effects of recent Fire Department cuts.

Fire officials said the fire's cause was "smoking materials" that ignited a couch on the first floor. There was just one smoke alarm in the house, in the basement, and it was not working, according to the Fire Department.

Visitation is from 9 to 11 a.m. Friday at St. Francis of Assissi Roman Catholic Church, 4821 Greene St. A Funeral Mass will follow at 11.

The incident has become the center of the debate between firefighters union leaders and the Nutter administration over cutbacks.

Engine 57, the closest company to the fire, had been deactivated during the day as part of cost-saving "rolling brownouts" implemented by the city. The company was back at work at the time of the fire, but had to travel across the city to pick up its truck, which was being repaired, and was not available.

Fire officials say that their coverage system worked properly and that the first engine company arrived in less than four minutes, which is within national standards.

Fire Commissioner Lloyd M. Ayers, as part of budget cutbacks, on Aug. 2 instituted "rolling brownouts" in which three companies are deactivated for every shift. Those closures are to be rotated throughout the city.

On Thursday, residents gathered signatures outside Engine 57, which was again closed for the day shift. Block Captain Marvin Wilson urged passing drivers to stop along Chestnut Street to sign up.

The petitions asked Mayor Nutter to end the rolling brownouts. "We just need our fire stations - that's obvious," said 60th Ward leader Greg Spearman, who said the group gathered 240 signatures in less than two hours.


Contact staff writer Jeff Shields at 215-854-4565 or jshields@phillynews.com.

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