Site of Fatal Reykjavík Fire to Be Demolished

Bræðaborgarstígur fire

Demolition will begin today or tomorrow on the house in West Reykjavík where a fire led to three deaths almost one year ago. RÚV reports that the house has been purchased by property developer Þorpið vistfélag from the company HD verk, which owned it when the fire occurred. Sigurður Smári Gylfason, CEO of Þorpið vistfélag says all necessary permits have been acquired to demolish the house and work will begin shortly.

Three people died and two were left in critical condition in the fire, which occurred on June 26, 2020. Marek Moszczynski has been charged with three counts of manslaughter and ten counts of attempted manslaughter in relation to the incident and will be sentenced in the Reykjavík District Court today. The fire initiated a public conversation about the conditions facing foreign workers in Iceland.

Read More: Charged With Endangering Workers in Unsafe Living Quarters

The Bræðraborgarstígur house was on a list of illegal residential housing published by the fire brigade in 2017. The building was reported on as far back as 2015 in Stundin newspaper regarding sub-standard housing for foreign workers and was covered two years later by the TV programme Kveikur, which conducted an investigation of illegal residence in the house. A government report commissioned in the wake of the fire found that thousands are living in non-residential buildings in Iceland, where fire safety measures are often inadequate and put their lives at risk.

Prosecutor Demands Life Sentence for Accused Arsonist

fire Vesturgata Bræðraborgarstígur

The prosecution is demanding that Marek Moszczynski, who is charged with three counts of manslaughter and ten counts of attempted manslaughter after a fire on Bræðraborgarstígur street in Reykjavík last summer, be sentenced to life in prison. Alternatively, the prosecution is calling for a 20-year prison sentence or placement in a secured psychiatric ward if the court rules him not criminally responsible, RÚV reports.

The main hearing in Moszczynski’s case concludes in the Reykjavík District Court today. The last witness was questioned before the court this morning. The court has called on some 30 witnesses, including others who lived in the house with Moszczynski, neighbours, police officers, and psychiatrists. Two psychiatric evaluations have ruled Moszczynski not criminally responsible by reason of mental disorder.

Clear Case of Arson, Prosecutor Says

District Prosecutor Kolbrún Benediktsdóttir stated in her concluding speech this morning that said there was no doubt the fire was a case of arson as there are two clear points of origin. “Negligence is ruled out because there are two points of origin a few metres apart. A fire at one of the points can not cause a fire at the other.”

While Moszczynski’s lawyer Stefán Karl Kristjánsson suggested an Icelandic couple living on the ground floor of the house was to blame for the fire, Kolbrún stated the testimony and timeline of events indicated that Moszczynski was responsible. She added that the house’s poor fire safety conditions did not excuse Moszczynski’s actions. “Marek knows this and knows what condition the house is in. It doesn’t excuse him that the owners of the house did not take ensure fire safety measures and escape routes. The accused knew full well that there were no escape routes there,” Kolbrún stated.

Seventeen File for Compensation

The Bræðraborgarstígur house was on a list of illegal residential housing published by the fire brigade in 2017. The building was reported on as far back as 2015 in Stundin newspaper regarding sub-standard housing for foreign workers and was covered two years later by the TV programme Kveikur, which conducted an investigation of illegal residence in the house. A government report commissioned in the wake of the fire found that thousands are living in non-residential buildings in Iceland, where fire safety measures are often inadequate and put their lives at risk.

Seventeen people have filed for compensation in the case, including the families of the victims, who have begun legal proceedings against both the accused and the owner of the house. The three individuals who died in the fire were all Polish citizens. The fire set off a public discussion on the conditions facing many foreign workers in Iceland.

Suspect in Bræðraborgarstígur Fire Not Criminally Responsible

Bræðaborgarstígur fire

A man in his 60s who is suspected of causing the Reykjavík house fire that killed three individuals last summer has been ruled not criminally responsible by reason of mental disorder, RÚV reports. The ruling was made based on a psychiatric reassessment that confirmed a previous assessment. The man was charged with manslaughter last September after being in custody for 12 weeks.

Main Hearing in April

The case was heard in the Reykjavík District Court today. The suspect’s counsel requested that he be tried behind closed doors, which the judge rejected. The prosecution intends to call 35 witnesses before the court. The defence attorney has also requested that two police reports be submitted for consideration to determine whether they are related to the case. The reports concern two individuals arrested at the scene of the fire for obstructing response crews. The ruling will involve more than one judge and the main hearing will take place on April 27.

Thousands Living in Inadequate Housing

The house that burned down was located at Bræðraborgarstígur 1 in Reykjavík’s Vesturbær neighbourhood and was on a list of illegal residential housing published by the fire brigade in 2017. The building was reported on as far back as 2015 in Stundin newspaper regarding sub-standard housing for foreign workers and was covered two years later by the TV programme Kveikur, which did an investigation of illegal residence in the house.

The three individuals who died in the fire were all Polish citizens. The families of the victims have begun legal proceedings of their own against both the suspect and the owner of the house. The fire set off public discussion on the conditions facing many foreign workers in Iceland. A government report commissioned in the wake of the fire found that thousands are living in non-residential buildings in Iceland, where fire safety measures are often inadequate and put their lives at risk.

Charged With Endangering Temporary Workers In Unsafe Living Quarters

The District Prosecutor has charged a temporary personnel agency owner for endangerment and for breaking fire safety laws, RÚV reports. The charge states that he installed living quarters in an industrial building he owned in Smiðshöfði and that this was done without the necessary permits and without the necessary fire safety precautions

The charge states that the police had the Reykjavík fire brigade assess fire safety in the building in February, two years ago. By then, people had been living there for three months. The assessment found that there was no compartmentalisation that would prevent the spread of a fire or smoke, escape routes were insufficient, interior walls and living spaces were of flammable materials, the state of electrical wiring was an unacceptable fire hazard, and operation in the building also carried a risk of ignition.

The District Prosecutor considers that the man was risking the health and lives of 24 of his staff, for profit and in an unscrupulous manner.  The man lives in Norway and that the charge was issued in early October. The court case will be filed next week.

The living conditions of foreign workers have been in the public discussion following the fatal fire at Bræðraborgarstígur last June. Efling union CEO told RÚV that the union increasingly had to help workers whose housing was dependent on their employer.

Owner Will Have One Month to Demolish Fire-Ravaged House

Bræðaborgarstígur fire

The owner of a Reykjavík house, now in ruins after a fatal fire, will be ordered to demolish the building’s remains within 30 days, RÚV reports. The Vesturbær Neighbourhood Residents’ Council has expressed concern that impending winter weather could knock over the compromised structure. The house owner’s lawyer has said the building cannot be demolished due to an insurance dispute.

The fire that occurred at the house last June resulted in three deaths and is considered the deadliest fire in Reykjavík’s history. A man was immediately apprehended following the fire and has since been charged with manslaughter and arson. The house was being rented for use as workers’ housing and had been investigated by media for unacceptable living conditions as far back as 2015.

Read More: Fire Sparks Conversation About Working Conditions Facing Foreigners

Owner Cites Insurance Dispute

Skúli Sveinsson, the house owner’s lawyer, told reporters it is not possible to demolish the house as there is an ongoing dispute between the owner and his insurance company on whether the house requires demolition or simply renovation. The City of Reykjavík’s Buliding Inspector Nikulás Úlfar Másson says the dispute is irrelevant to authorities. “Our duty is to ensure that buildings don’t pose a danger to their environment, can harm or even cause health problems to passersby or those living in their vicinity,” Nikulás stated. “We have been monitoring the scene, with the net that covers the house and the fence, and all of that has been exemplary so far but now of course we can expect all kinds of weather that could simply destroy the house. We don’t truly really know what condition it’s in.”

“Now it’s time for us to send a letter to the owner and ask him to demolish the house within 30 days or come up with an explanation as to what he plans to do with the ruins,” Nikulás stated.

Both the house’s owner and the man who has been charged for the fire are expected to face legal proceedings from the families of the victims. All three people who died in the fire were Polish citizens.

Suspect Charged in Fatal House Fire

fire Vesturgata Bræðraborgarstígur

Police have charged the man who has been held in connection with a house fire this June that left three people dead and two in critical condition, mbl.is reports. The suspect, who is in his sixties, has been in custody since the day of the fire.

Friday marked twelve weeks that the man has been in custody—the maximum amount of time a person can be held without being charged. It has been confirmed that the man will remain in custody for another four weeks. The suspect was charged with manslaughter under Article 211 of the general penal code and arson under Article 164. Per the terms of Article 211, punishment for manslaughter calls for anywhere from five years’ imprisonment (the minimum allowable sentence) to life. Article 164 dictates that the punishment for arson be no less than six months’ imprisonment.

See Also: Fire Sparks Conversation About Working Conditions Facing Foreigners

The house that burned down was located at Bræðraborgarstígur 1 in the westside neighbourhood of Vesturbær and was on a list of illegal residential housing published by the fire brigade in 2017. The building was reported on as far back as 2015 in Stundin newspaper regarding sub-standard housing for foreign workers and was covered two years later by the TV programme Kveikur, which did an investigation of illegal residence in the house.

All three people who died in the fire were Polish citizens. The families of the victims have begun legal proceedings of their own and will be suing both the man in custody as well as the owner of the house.

Custody Extended for Suspect in Fatal Fire

fire Vesturgata Bræðraborgarstígur

A man who was arrested following a fatal house fire last June will remain in custody, RÚV reports. Reykjavík District Court has confirmed his continued custody until September 18. The man is believed to have started the fire, which killed three individuals and left others in hospital with serious injuries. The incident is being investigated as voluntary manslaughter.

Read More: Fire Sparks Conversation About Working Conditions Facing Foreigners

In a detention order from July 15, when the suspect’s detention was first extended, stated the man was suspected of violating Article 211 of the General Penal Code. The article stipulates that a person who takes another person’s life shall be sentenced to no less than five years in prison and up to life imprisonment.

According to police, the investigation into the incident is going well.

Building Was a Ticking Time Bomb

The house, situated on Bræðraborgarstígur 1, is on a list of illegal residential housing published by the fire brigade in 2017. The building was reported on as far back as 2015 in Stundin newspaper regarding sub-standard housing for foreign workers. At the time, a Reykjavík city building inspector commented that the house was to be inspected. Investigative journalism programme Kveikur took up the matter of illegal residence in the house in 2017. The registered owner of the house is local contractor HD Verk, whose owners have not made any comments on the fire. The building had also been rented by temporary work agencies Seigla and Menn í Vinnu.

“We’ve had a ticking time bomb here for years regarding [foreign workers’] conditions,” stated CEO of Efling Union Viðar Þorsteinnson in an interview on the fire. Viðar criticised the Ministry of Justice for placing emphasis on arresting undocumented workers while “Employers who are responsible for this activity, who are the perpetrators of criminal activity on the Icelandic labour market – they walk free.”