Oswego Firefighters Initiate Vacant Building Safety Program

OSWEGO, NY – The city of Oswego has dozens of vacant structures, and some are causing concerns for residents and firefighters.

Some of these vacant houses and buildings are very well maintained and safely secured by property managers or owners, while other vacant structures are dilapidated and hazardous to those in the immediate area.

Vacant structures can put first responders at risk because the building may need to be entered and sometimes searched during an emergency, such as a building fire.

Some vacant buildings have not been maintained properly and can cause deadly conditions to exist for firefighters.

Visibility inside a structure fire is poor at best, making it impossible for crews to identify holes in a floor or a missing staircase.

Vacant buildings often have windows and exit doors boarded up, making it difficult for firefighters to find their way out.

Several firefighters die each year while on duty, many of them due to being lost or trapped in a building fire.

Thus far in 2014, 42 firefighters have died in the line of duty in the United States.

By taking some proactive steps, we are trying to avoid becoming a part of that statistic.


Labeling vacant structures is a step in the right direction, and we have begun to do that in the city of Oswego.

It is important that these vacant buildings are properly secured, and if dangerous conditions exist, that first responders know about those conditions ahead of time.

Per NYS Fire Code, we are labeling these buildings with square red signs, affixed to the front (address side) of the structure.

There are three different markings that these signs will have, depending on conditions inside the building.

some structural or hazardous conditions
some structural or hazardous conditions

A red sign with no slash or X through it identifies a vacant structure deemed safe for interior firefighting activities.

A red sign with one diagonal slash through it identifies a vacant structure with some structural or hazardous conditions inside and interior activities should be done with extreme caution.

Finally, a red sign with an X through it signifies a vacant building that is unsafe for entry and all firefighting activities should be done from the exterior.

unsafe for entry
unsafe for entry

These signs allow our fire officers to make better, more informed decisions while at emergency scenes.

Firefighting is inherently dangerous, but there is no reason to put lives at risk to attempt to save a confirmed dangerous vacant structure.

Our Code Enforcement division, made up of firefighters and fire officers within the Oswego Fire Department, has taken on the responsibility of inspecting these vacant structures to assess their current condition, and if necessary placard them.

This keeps neighborhoods safer, and provides critical information to the fire department.

If you have questions or concerns about a vacant structure in your neighborhood, please call the Oswego Fire Department, Code Enforcement Division at (315) 342-8151.

Stay Safe Oswego!