Handling of FISC fire questioned
Sounds like a number of folks are questioning the handling of that March 29 Naval building fire – including some of the firefighters who fought it.
As I reported yesterday, Fire Chief David Kapler told the City Council on Tuesday that someone from the Bay Area Air Quality Management District came out to monitor and take samples of the air around the fire, which was thick with smoke for most of the day that the fire burned. And he said they found no evidence that there was lead or asbestos from the building in the air.
But Domenick Weaver, head of the local firefighters union, said that wasn’t exactly true. In a comment on yesterday’s post, he wrote:
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 (sic) in the air.
I called the air quality agency and talked with their spokesman, Ralph Borrmann, who told me that a firefighter was sent into the center of the building to take the only sample his agency got from the fire – and that the results, which aren’t representative of what may or may not have been in the air elsewhere, won’t be available for a few more days.
Borrmann said his agency’s staffer did not take samples upwind or downwind of the fire, but he wasn’t sure why. (I also checked in with Kapler and with the folks at the county environmental health department, who had apparently been called to the scene. They both directed me to the city’s risk manager, Darrell Handy.)
Borrmann said his agency, which will be monitoring the cleanup job the city does with what’s left of the building, urged city officials to post a phone number that people could call to get the correct details on how to properly clean up any fire debris they find. He said the property belongs to the city.
“We don’t know what it is. It could be anything,” Borrmann said, adding that the ash could contain contaminants and if so, there needs to be a plan to properly dispose of it. Kapler told the council that the ash had not been tested.
I’ve gotten comments from people saying they got ash in their yards in the East End, and the Sun had a piece Thursday that featured a resident who said he found paint chips in the fire debris that landed in his yard.
Liz Williams, who lives in the houseboat community near the Cardinal Point assisted living facility, has set up a website detailing their efforts to get to the bottom of environmental issues around the fire. She said in comments on this site that she and her neighbors were not informed of a shelter in place advisory that was issued 12 hours after the fire was first reported.
Kapler told the council that firefighters went to some places in person and that the department put the word out through the news media and through other agencies’ sites. He said they didn’t use the city’s telephone notification system, in part because it is old and slow.
Williams is also saying a friend had some fire debris tested and found that it contains asbestos. And she says the Alameda County District Attorney’s Office is investigating. (I’ll check in with them today.)
The air quality agency’s incident report offers additional details about the fire. Sounds like they told Assistant City Manager David Brandt that there was asbestos in the building and explained how to get rid of it (and it also says they didn’t get any complaints or inquiries from the surrounding community regarding the fire).
As I always say, stay tuned.