CITY DOWNPLAYS FIRE HEALTH HAZARD; INFO SITE SET
City officials are admitting there is asbestos and lead in the ash scattered halfway across the Island by that March 29 fire on former Navy land, but they are saying that neither the ash nor the heavy smoke from the fire poses a health hazard.
“As is typical with building fires, some ash and burned debris was carried away from the burning building and settled back to the ground downwind of the fire. According to the City’s environmental consultant, this material does not pose a health hazard,” according to a city press release issued Tuesday night that lists Fire Marshal Michael Fisher as a contact.
The city has set up a web link that answers questions about the ash, including how to clean it up. They’re also saying that staff from the public works department will be available to clean up ash for the next two weeks. The site also has links to information on asbestos and lead.
The Bay Area Air Quality Management District, which took an air sample inside the burning building on the day of the fire, released the results Tuesday. (I couldn’t open the file, so more on that later.)
The city’s site says that “a few pieces of ash or burned debris fell on some downwind properties.” But The Island and other media outlets have gotten several reports (I got one report of ash as far away as Pearl and Otis, in the East End).
Some residents and the firefighters themselves have criticized the handling of the fire and it aftermath, saying the city failed to properly handle notification of residents downwind of the fire of a shelter-in-place advisory the city issued and also potential hazards associated with ashes from the fire.
Jeff DelBono, spokesman for the local firefighters union, said he doesn’t think the city’s press release adequately addresses concerns about the fire. And he said the union is still concerned about firefighters and residents exposed to smoke and debris from the fire.
“We feel that these answers should have come much sooner to the citizens and our association,” DelBono said.
The city’s website offers this cleanup advice:
Drape a moistened paper towel over the piece of ash. Gently pick up the paper towel with the piece of ash contained in it. Dispose of the ash wrapped in the paper towel in your refuse container for collection with the rest of your trash.
If you would like to take extra precautions while disposing of ash, there are simple things you can do. The easiest measures are to wear gloves and a dust mask. Disposable latex and nitrile gloves are available at hardware stores, as are dust masks, such as those used for sanding and other shop activities. Two-strap dust masks with a nose clip provide greater protection. A mask rated N95 or P100 blocks particles from ash better than simpler dust or surgical masks. Disposable gloves and masks can be discarded in your trash container with the paper towel and ash.
It also says that anyone who wants the city to handle the cleanup can call public works at 747-7900. You can also address questions to Fisher, the fire marshal, at 337-2122.
The city is still investigating the cause of the fire, which burned for nearly a day and cast a thick pall of smoke over a goodly portion of the Island east of the former Naval medical records depot. The city is preparing to demolish the remains of the building, which had been slated to be torn down to make way for a potential mixed-use development there.