Feds, city probing fumes at Roxborough fire station

Posted: January 17, 2014

FEDERAL AND CITY agencies are investigating the source of noxious fumes that have kept a Roxborough fire station closed since Dec. 17, Fire Commissioner Lloyd Ayers said yesterday.

The Daily News reported yesterday that the station, Engine Company 66 on Ridge Avenue near Shawmont, has been shuttered since a firefighter became ill there.

Ayers said the situation is under investigation by a joint task force of "federal, state and city government officials," including the Environmental Protection Agency, the city's Water Department and the Fire Department's Hazardous Materials Unit.

"We'll be out here for a while; all of this is a process," Ayers said.

He said the group is still seeking to identify the source of the chemical fumes that sent a firefighter to Roxborough Memorial Hospital.

"When we got there, we could smell something right away," Ayers said. "The EPA first told us that we could operate with those levels of chemicals present, but we said no.

"We weren't going to risk any more injuries."

Ayers believes that three gas stations close to the fire station - including one next door - may be potential sources of the chemical fumes.

One chemical listed in a preliminary EPA report was chloromethane, according to Local 22 firefighters union president Joe Schulle. That compound is commonly used in petroleum refining.

However, until the exact source has been determined, Ayers has moved the firefighting equipment from Engine 66 to Engine 39, about a mile away on Ridge Avenue near Cinnaminson Street. (The Daily News incorrectly reported yesterday that the closest fire-response crew was at Engine 12, on Main Street in Manayunk.)

In the weeks it has been housed in its temporary home, Engine 66 has responded to two fires in its normal coverage area, and was able to get to both within the industry-standard response time, Ayers said.

"This is a pretty safe community; there isn't too much demand for fire rescue, historically," Ayers said. "We have everything mapped out and are monitoring service closely."

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