Thread: Worcester...four years gone by
04-18-2005, 01:16 AM #26
5 years plus............
WORCESTER, Mass. (AP) - More than five years after it killed six
city firefighters, the Worcester Cold Storage fire is still
The Telegram & Gazette of Worcester reported that a number of
firefighters who battled the Dec. 3, 1999 fire and searched its
smoldering rubble for the remains of their colleagues have taken
disability retirements after being diagnosed with serious lung
diseases or post-traumatic stress disorder.
Vincent Dunn, a retired New York deputy fire chief who served on
a federal panel that released a report critical of the Worcester
Fire Department's response to the fire, said the full impact of the
blaze is likely yet to be felt.
"The toxic, chemical and residue effects take years to show
up," Dunn said. "I believe in several years you'll see damage to
lungs of the Worcester firefighters who worked continuously on that
pile of dust and smoke and fumes and dust particles."
Fire Capt. Michael P. Coakley, 52, lost 80 percent of his lung
capacity as a result of the Cold Storage fire. He was the
beneficiary of special legislation approved in 2000 that granted
him his full salary until he turns 65, after which he will receive
a pension of 72 percent of his pay tax-free.
A former lieutenant, Kevin Reando, who recently retired after 30
years on the job for medical reasons unrelated to the fire, is
among those who battled the fire and worries about its effects.
"There were black teardrops on cars and people's uniforms. You
couldn't clean it off," he said. "I'm assuming some of it got in
Firefighters James F. "Jay" Lyons III, Paul A. Brotherton,
Jeremiah M. Lucey, Joseph T. McGuirk, Timothy P. Jackson and Lt.
Thomas E. Spencer were killed in the fire at the abandoned cold
storage warehouse, which shook the city and drew worldwide
According to the fire department board of inquiry on the blaze,
the warehouse was lined with thick asphalt-impregnated cork
insulation. In parts of the building, the cork had been replaced
with sprayed-on foamlike polyurethane and polystyrene panels and
fiberglass board, plastic materials that spread flame rapidly,
generate high heat and create large amounts of smoke and toxic
At the height of the fire, firefighters were largely shielded
from smoke and toxic fumes by their department-issued face masks
and air tanks. But during the cleanup and search for the dead
firefighters, many searchers went unprotected, while others used
medical-style paper masks.
The fire was started when a homeless couple taking shelter in
the building knocked over a candle. The firefighters initially
entered the building to search for people, but the couple had
(Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)Proudly serving as the IACOJ Minister of Information & Propoganda!
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04-18-2005, 10:47 AM #27
- Join Date
- Feb 2001
- Illinois-where pertnear is close enough!
Unfortunately, doffing the SCBA as soon after the initial knock down and during the salvage/overhaul phase is still prevalent today.
We can no longer think of smoke as "smoke". It is a poisonous gas that will linger long after the fire is knocked down.
When I read Sean Flynn's book 3000 Degrees and his description of the construction of that building and when he described the black, acrid smoke that was in the air that night, I knew some-even non-firefighters-would feel the lingering effects.
Sad, but this fire could very well claim more lives.
I hope not. I pray that it doesn't.
Remember Bradley Golden (9/25/01)
RIP HOF Robert J. Compton(ENG6511)
04-19-2005, 11:49 AM #28
Unfortunately, doffing the SCBA as soon after the initial knock down and during the salvage/overhaul phase is still prevalent today.
Many, myself included, also tend to cheat too far on the approach too -- not masking up until we're actually in the smoke, so that we don't use the bottle as fast (I keep losing the battle to buy 45 minute bottles at least for the first round of packs off the trucks...I know, still have to break the cheating mentality, but it would give you another reason not to)
And sometimes, you can't reasonably avoid it...I've unfortunately have had the experience of a pack freezing up inside during an overhaul. Talk about funky, the alarm makes a weird noise, and while you're still thinking about it saying I can't be out of air, you're sucking the mask up close to your face...****...had to pop the MMR to get back outside.IACOJ Canine Officer
04-19-2005, 11:52 AM #29
The AP article above is the "edited" down version from the Sunday T&G article below.
Hasn't been added to the fire special site yet, I'd anticpate that soon ( http://www.telegram.com/apps/pbcs.dl...=WAREHOUSEFIRE ) <-- and I *believe* you don't have to subscribe to read those articles.
Warehouse fire is still taking a toll
Worcester firefighters diagnosed with ailments
By Shaun Sutner TELEGRAM & GAZETTE STAFF
Worcester firefighters search charred rubble on Dec. 11, 1999, for traces of six fellow firefighters who died in the devastating Worcester Cold Storage and Warehouse Co. fire. (1999 T&G File Photo)
» Hazardous exposures
Frank P. Raffa, left, and Donald Courtney, president and vice president of Local 1009, International Association of Fire Fighters, are shown in the Chandler Street union office, which is filled with memorabilia related to the tragic warehouse fire of 1999.
(T&G Staff / PAUL KAPTEYN)
Lewis D. Pepper
WORCESTER— More than five years after the raging inferno at the Worcester Cold Storage and Warehouse Co. building killed six city firefighters, the fire is still claiming victims.
Among those victims are a number of firefighters who battled the blaze that started the night of Dec. 3, 1999, and continued burning for a week, who have taken disability retirements after being diagnosed with serious lung disease or post-traumatic stress disorder.
Others who fought the deadly fire or took part in the physically and emotionally draining search for the remains of those killed, an ordeal that dragged on for eight days, continue to be traumatized and are having trouble on the job, firefighters say.
Many who have monitored the situation here and similar tragedies elsewhere say many more could become ill in the future from exposure to the toxic chemicals and contaminants that were in the century-old building and the smoldering rubble pile produced by the fire.
Parallels with the environmental fallout in downtown New York after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center buildings also have been noted, though on a considerably smaller scale.
More than 1,700 New York police officers and firefighters have sued the city claiming they suffered lung damage, cancers and other health problems from the toxins released by the collapse of the buildings. At least 300 have retired on disability because of illness or injury related to the attacks.
In the case of the Cold Storage fire, Worcester firefighters and some medical and fire experts say prolonged close exposure to the rubble, dust and fumes the firefighters encountered as they clawed through the debris 24 hours a day is a ticking time bomb that ultimately will cause serious health problems for many of the searchers.
“The long-term effects could be devastating,” said Frank P. Raffa, president of Local 1009, International Association of Fire Fighters. “There were a lot of toxins in there. It’s something we’ve got to deal with.”
Vincent Dunn, a retired New York deputy fire chief who served on a federal panel that released a report critical of the Worcester Fire Department’s response to the fire, said the full impact of the blaze is likely yet to be felt.
“The toxic, chemical and residue effects take years to show up,” according to Mr. Dunn, a nationally recognized expert on firefighting issues. “I believe in several years you’ll see damage to lungs of the Worcester firefighters who worked continuously on that pile of dust and smoke and fumes and dust particles.”
There already is evidence that the blaze permanently sickened several firefighters.
• In December, a 47-year-old veteran of 17 years in the Fire Department was granted permanent disability retirement and a tax-free pension at 72 percent of his $56,000 salary after being diagnosed with chronic pulmonary obstructive disease that the physicians who examined him said was caused by the warehouse fire.
The Worcester man, who did not want his name used because he fears jeopardizing his full pension, which he has not started to receive, wheezes constantly, has caught pneumonia 19 times since the fire and can no longer work at his side job as a roofer.
He allowed a reporter to view his medical records. Each of the three doctors who examined him for the Public Employment Retirement Administration Commission said his 29-year pack-a-day cigarette habit — he quit smoking three years ago — was secondary to his exposure to smoke and fumes at the fire.
• Another disabled retiree, a former commanding officer who was with his crew at the scene for much of the blaze and its aftermath, started having anxiety attacks and trouble sleeping and couldn’t remember street names or learn how to operate new equipment. He also requested anonymity because people close to him don’t know the reasons for his retirement.
This firefighter, whose disability retirement for post-traumatic stress disorder also was approved by a PERAC medical panel and the city’s physician, Dr. John Kelly, also receives nearly three quarters of his $65,000 salary tax-free.
• A young firefighter who started his career just before the Cold Storage fire has battled serious psychological problems including “survivor’s guilt” since he swapped shifts with one of the men who died, according to union officials. He is still on the job.
• Fire Capt. Michael P. Coakley, 52, often referred to as the “seventh victim” of the tragedy, lost 80 percent of his lung capacity as a result of the Cold Storage fire. He was the beneficiary of special legislation approved in 2000 that granted him his full salary until he turns 65, after which he will get 72 percent of his pay tax-free.
A former lieutenant, Kevin Reando, who recently retired after 30 years on the job because of asthma and heart arrhythmia (unrelated to the Cold Storage fire), is among those who battled the fire and continues to worry about its effects.
“There were black teardrops on cars and people’s uniforms. You couldn’t clean it off,” he said. “I’m assuming some of it got in your lungs.”
Another retired firefighter, Robert A. Goyette, who stopped working in August 2002, said he has been told about more than a few firefighters who fear they had contracted illness or worsened existing ailments as a result of the Cold Storage blaze.
“I’m sure there were people with lung problems,” he said. “It was a tough go.”
The union was concerned from the beginning about the health effects of the fire.
In the days after the blaze, union officials had firefighters file “precautionaries” saying they were exposed to dangerous materials that could harm their health. These written notices are used to buttress disability claims if necessary.
The union also has provided its members with a list of the main combustible products that burned during the Cold Storage fire, which included ground cork, cellular glass, polystyrene and polyurethane.
Exposure to low-to-moderate levels of the chemical compounds when they burn can irritate lungs and eyes, and cause nausea, fatigue and confusion. Inhaling large amounts can result in coma or death.
“Countless firefighters spent countless hours working at recovery and were exposed to the smoke no matter where they worked at the site,” the union’s vice president, Donald Courtney, wrote in a letter to firefighters last year. “Present at this fire scene for eight days, these products present a greater danger to the firefighter than free burning.”
At the height of the fire, firefighters were largely shielded from smoke and toxic fumes by their department-issued face masks and air tanks.
During the cleanup, however, searchers looking for the remains of Firefighters Paul A. Brotherton, Jeremiah M. Lucey and Joseph T. McGuirk, and Lts. Timothy P. Jackson, James F. Lyons III and Thomas E. Spencer, for the most part went unprotected.
Some used flimsy, medical-style paper masks that quickly were fouled by dirt and discarded by searchers using metal screens to sift the rubble at close range, firefighters say.
“We would do it differently today,” Mr. Courtney said.
City officials downplay the magnitude of the fire’s long-term effects.
Unlike in New York, no fire-related lawsuits have been filed against the city by municipal employees, according to City Solicitor David M. Moore.
Mr. Moore said he thinks health damage from the fire was minimized because most contaminants were vented harmlessly from the building into the atmosphere in a tall plume of dark smoke.
A U.S. Environmental Protection Agency air quality study performed a few days after the fire confirmed that, unlike the toxic cloud that hovered over lower Manhattan for a long period after the Sept. 11 attacks, only tiny traces of contaminants were left in Worcester.
“It did burn for a couple of days,” Mr. Moore said of the fire, which wasn’t considered extinguished until Dec. 7.
While municipal officials say they can’t release employees’ medical information because of privacy laws, 45 firefighters have retired since the fire, according to city records.
Of the 33 firefighters who have been injured on duty since Dec. 3, 1999, seven have retired or applied for retirement.
“The warehouse fire was the cause of some disabilities, but other than the firefighters who perished, not to the degree the Retirement Board expected based on the magnitude of the event,” said Raymond F. McGrath, a member of the board. “We expected more. The numbers are not there.”
But the contents of the vacant brick building have given ample reason for concern to union officials and firefighters.
The warehouse was lined with thick asphalt-impregnated cork insulation, according to a report compiled after the fire by the Worcester Fire Department’s Board of Inquiry.
In parts of the building, the cork had been replaced with sprayed-on foamlike polyurethane and polystyrene panels and fiberglass board.
Those plastic materials “cause a rapid flame spread, generate high heat, create enormous amounts of smoke and toxic combustion gases, and are difficult to extinguish,” the board investigators noted.
EPA-contracted technicians arrived in the city on Dec. 6 to monitor air quality and test for any hazardous materials released by the fire. They left Dec. 7 after a day of taking air samples at six locations at the Franklin Street building, as well as downwind and upwind from the scene.
The EPA study found no evidence of asbestos and only trace amounts of several volatile organic compounds such as styrene, hexane and ethyl acetate.
However, the technicians detected concentrations of 21 parts per billion of acetone, a flammable chemical used to make plastic fibers and other chemicals and as a dissolving agent; 16 ppb of benzene, a widely used industrial agent and known carcinogen used in plastics, rubber and pesticides; and 13 ppb of toluene, a clear, colorless liquid used to make paints, lacquers and adhesives.
Inside the building, slightly higher amounts of benzene, toluene and styrene — all of which can cause death or major organ damage if inhaled or ingested in large amounts — were found.
While the amounts detected by the EPA were well below safety limits set by the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration, one authority on environmental health hazards called the presence of benzene and the other substances significant, particularly when they were measured three days after the event that released them.
“The 9-11 analogy is not inappropriate,” said Lewis D. Pepper, an assistant professor of environmental health at Boston University’s School of Public Health and an authority on environmental health hazards. “Their presence indicates they were there in higher concentrations before.
“Are they likely sources for people’s respiratory illnesses?” he added. “Yes.”
Mr. Pepper said firefighters commonly suffer from chronic and acute breathing ailments such as the disorder that forced the 47-year-old Worcester firefighter to retire.
Those most likely to be at risk are the ones who spent the most time at the cleanup site and were closest to it, Mr. Pepper said.
That means that even though some residents as far as a half-mile from the warehouse reported soot on their windowsills and car windshields, residents living a few blocks away and sightseers who watched the fire and subsequent cleanup for a short time should not be affected, he said.
IACOJ Canine Officer
04-20-2005, 07:23 AM #30
Troutville Volunteer Fire Department
- Join Date
- Oct 2002
12-05-2005, 08:27 PM #31
other replies from 2 years ago ..............
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