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Fresh details on Landing fire

Submitted by on 1, April 9, 2009 – 7:00 am8 Comments

101-300x225Fire Chief David Kapler offered fresh details on that huge Alameda Landing fire to the council the other night, including the steps that he said the fire department took to ensure residents whose homes were blanketed by the smoke and ash spread by the March 29 fire were safe.

Kapler said the department called in folks from the Bay Area Air Quality Management District and the Alameda County environmental health department to sample the air in the area adjacent to the fire which was blanketed by thick brown smoke. He said the air quality management people found no evidence that lead or asbestos, both of which were in the former Navy administrative building that burned, was in the air. (It doesn’t sounds like they have tested the contents of the ashes people were finding in their yards, though Kapler said asbestos doesn’t burn and that it wasn’t in the air. But one commenter who posted on one of my earlier fire posts said the opposite.)

Still, Kapler said the department issued a “shelter in place” advisory for folks who are about a mile east of the site as a precautionary measure, and that firefighters notified folks at the Mariner Square Health Club, Cardinal Point senior residences, the Extended Stay hotel and nearby residents of the advisory in person. They also got the word out through the local media, he said.

He said the city has a notification system but that it wasn’t used because it’s old and slow. Interim City Manager Ann Marie Gallant said the auto-dialing system, which is a decade old, could be replaced.

Firefighters had responded to three smaller fires on the night of March 28 and early morning of March 29, but all three put themselves out, Kapler said. He said residents of the Oakland Hills were the first to report the big fire, at 2:12 a.m., and that Oakland firefighters were called to what they thought was the scene – Jack London Square.

“When they got (there), they realized there was no fire,” Kapler said. “But they could see it across the estuary.”

Alameda, Oakland and Alameda County’s fire departments were all called out to help extinguish the fire at the abandoned, dilapidated building, which burned for over a day. Fire crews, who have been on orders not to enter the building, worked to douse the fire from massive hoses mounted on aerial ladder trucks. They also brought in excavators to burrow their way into the building toward the fire.

City officials said last week they were getting estimates to tear down what’s left of the building, and fire investigators were trying to find out who set it. They said the building, which was surrounded by a chain-link fence, was a popular hangout for youths.

If you’re looking for some visuals, I got forwarded links to additional pictures of the fire and a YouTube video.


  • AD says:

    There is already a blog directing people what action to take to get the asbestos cleaned out of their property, http://fireinalameda.wordpress.com.

  • Quick update: I just got forwarded a link on asbestos and fires. It's here:


  • The Alameda Firefighters Association is as displeased as the rest of the community with the non-chalant handling of this very serious situation. It is reminiscent of the “no big deal” attitude that has been taken by City Staff and the Fire Chief with the implementation of “Brownouts”.

    The Fire Chief claims that during the event or shortly thereafter, the air was sampled by the Bay Area Air Quality Management District and found to be free of asbestos. To the best of our knowledge, no samples were taken as the representative that BAAQMD responded had told people on scene that he would not be able to obtain accurate readings due to the volume of particulants in the air.

    We know what the building was constructed of and that it contained lead and asbestos in it’s building materials. As fires expose asbestos containing materials in a building, the column of heat and smoke can pick up asbestos fibers and shoot them hundreds of feet into the air, where they can remain suspended and travel for days. Asbestos containing materials require extremely careful handling and disposal techniques to avoid dangerous exposures. Many residents and clean-up volunteers do not have the knowledge or equipment to handle the problem safely.

    The Alameda Firefighters are concerned for the health and safety of the community, and of our members and the members of the Oakland Fire Department who spent the better part of 2 days in the closest proximity of exposure through inhalation, absorbtion, and possible ingestion. We would like the Chief to produce to us, and to the public, the report analysis of the samples that he claims BAAQMD took. We also would like to see the report analysis of any further contamination samples that were taken made public, so that all involved are aware of the potential health hazards they may face now and into the future due to this event.

    We continue to encourage the community to not only learn more about this event, but the gross mismanagement of the Alameda Fire Department and the emergency services you all have come to expect and deserve. The Firefighters are working diligently to provide the community with the best and most accurate information regarding the “Brownouts” and your service levels, the potential Ambulance decertification issue, the fiscal irresponsibility of short staffing, and now, the downplayed spin on your health.

    The City of Alameda is suing the Firefighters Association and 3 citizens for declaratory relief from a proposed ballot measure to set minimum staffing for your street level services. They are using outside counsel from Southern California, and interfering with the democratic voice of the people. The Mayor said, that “the people have to choose what level of service they are willing to accept.”. We are trying to give the people that vehicle to choose, and the process is being undermined before it even gets to a vote of the people.

    Please attend one of our upcoming Town Hall meetings to learn more and have your questions answered. See our website http://www.savealamedafirehouses.com for dates and more.

  • Liz Williams says:

    I'm so glad to see someone else talking about the fire. Denise Lai took a sample of the fire debris to be tested and has the results: the chunk is 10% asbestos and looks to be roofing material. The city and the BAAQMD are giving us the run-around so Denise and I (Liz Williams) have started a blog with information about what actions we can take to get this fire addressed. On the blog, you can see the BAAQMD incident report, and find out what to do to force the city to clean up the island. Right now ,the best thing to do is to take pictures of the debris, write up a timeline of what you experienced and send them to the County DA's office, who is on this. We'd love to see your timeline on the blog as well – the accretion of our stories will be powerful.

    Also necessary to force the city to act is to send the mayor and city council and the BAAQMD certified return signature letters demanding that they test the debris and clean it up. Unless they sign for the letters, they are not legally obligated to respond to our complaints. Or so says the state DA.

    here's the link: http://www.fireinalameda.wordpress.com

    I have a very bad feeling about this fire and the way it was handled.

  • Liz Williams says:

    Almost forgot – I live in the houseboat community near Cardinal Point. About 75 of us live here. No one came to tell us to shelter in place. I can ask Cardinal Point staff if there were told in person. That's point one. I was home all day. None of my neighbors heard anything either.

    Issue 2: The shelter in place order wasn't issued until 2:00 pm, 12 hours after the fire started. That's what the BAAQMD incident report says. In that report, there is no mention of testing.

  • Denise Lai says:

    I live exactly one-mile from the burnsite as-the-crow flies. I collected the material in my yard and sent it to a professional asbestos-test lab earlier this week. The results? 10% ASBESTOS. It was roofing material with mastic. Mastic is black BLACK smoke when it's heated up. Smelly and icky. And asbestos in this form, though it can be in non-friable chunks, still breaks apart and contaminates the area. It's in our yards and the AFD is saying mow it! YIKES.

    Does anyone know the square footage of the roof? We can extrapolate the mass of asbestos roofing material that existed on that building. Can we extrapolate how much of that dispersed into our yards??

  • Mike G says:

    Read the Alameda Sun Article to see a glimpse of my experiences with this fallout…..
    I have also included a link to a fire the EPA cleaned up because of the possible exposure from asbestos to the town of Sprague, Conn.

    And since all of the questions have started the Alameda fire Department is now referring all questions to the City Attorneys Office and the Mayors Office as well as the City Council are referring all questions to the City Managers Office,…and they are not returning any calls.
    We must ask the questions, because the City will not be forth coming on our exposure to the debris whether or not it was considered minimal exposure. If it was no big deal, then show us how this determination was made, and provide the reports for public review.



  • Liz Williams says:

    The City met today (4/13) at 3:00 pm with the Fire Chief, the BAAQDM and a consultant they hired to interpret the results. You can file a public records request through the City’s website to obtain the documents from that meeting. I did and I’ll post about it on our site and here when I get them.

    In addition, Denise and I put together a packet of info and dropped it off at City Hall this morning. Included in the packet were test results showing a chunk of debris in Denise’s yard contained 10% asbestos.

    Finally, we issued a press release this morning and KCBS interviewed Denise and broadcast about a minute piece earlier today. The Oakland Tribune has promised to write a piece in the next day or two.

    I’ll be at the Firefighters Forum tomorrow night.

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