Firefighter's Family Settles Suit with City
Colleen Terlicker, whose firefighter son died in the Pang warehouse blaze, said yesterday that the $450,000 her family will receive in a settlement with the City of Seattle over his death isn't as important as making firefighters' jobs safer.
Terlicker and her husband, Ray, reached an out-of-court settlement with the city in their wrongful-death civil lawsuit against the city. Their son, Randall Terlicker, 35, was one of four firefighters who died in the 1995 fire.
As part of the settlement, the Seattle Fire Department has agreed to seek funding for a training center and for additional firefighters. It also promises to make other changes to increase the safety of firefighters, Colleen Terlicker and her attorney, Bill Marler, said.
"You can't change the past; hopefully you can change the future," Terlicker said.
Calls to the Fire Department have increased and the department doesn't "have near enough firefighters they should have," she added.
Terlicker said the Fire Department had promised to "approach the mayor and City Council to accomplish these goals. I look forward to having them accomplished."
Terlicker said no amount of money could replace her son. The settlement, however, makes people aware that changes need to be made in the Fire Department so that what occurred doesn't happen to another family, she said.
The Terlickers and families of the other three firefighters who died in the Jan. 5, 1995, fire filed civil lawsuits against the city, claiming negligence by the Fire Department in fighting the blaze.
"There were errors made," Terlicker said. There weren't enough firefighters and they didn't have the information they needed to fight the fire, she added.
Firefighters didn't know about a false basement in the warehouse and died when a floor collapsed into the basement.
"No one did anything deliberately, but there were mistakes made and they need to be corrected; hopefully they will be," Terlicker said.
Terlicker said she plans to work with the Fire Department and monitor its progress in accomplishing the changes.
The other firefighters who died were James Brown, 25; Gregory Shoemaker, 43; and Walter Kilgore, 45. The lawsuits involving their families are pending.
Randy Terlicker loved the Fire Department, and was very safety conscious, Terlicker said. She added that she wants the department "to be the best in the country and to do whatever it takes to accomplish that."
The Fire Department also agreed to name its training pool at Station 10 after Randy Terlicker. And if a new training center is built, a plaque honoring the four deceased firefighters will be placed there.
Seattle Fire Chief James Sewell said in a press release: "We hope that the settlement of this case will bring some peace to Randy's family. We also hope that resolving this case will help in our own healing process as a department."
Martin Pang, 42, who admitted setting the fire at his parents' frozen food warehouse in the International District, is serving a 35-year prison term.
He was ordered Tuesday to pay nearly $1 million in restitution, but the families of the firefighters would receive only funeral expenses if any money is forthcoming. Pang is broke.
Most of the restitution would be paid to insurance companies.
Terlicker said the department also agreed to create more safety officers' jobs and to survey buildings so firefighters will know dangerous ones.
Sewell said that since the Pang fire, the department has taken many steps to prevent another such tragedy. The department has enhanced and expanded its pre-incident survey program. Under the program, fire station companies survey buildings in their districts that may pose fire fighting hazards. Those surveys are entered into a computer and can be accessed by battalion chiefs responding to structural fires via laptop computer.
Firefighters also have received additional training in building construction types and methods to improve awareness of structural weakness and to improve tactics at a fire, Sewell said.
The chief added that he is committed to building a new training center and increasing the number of firefighters.