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Leaking Chemicals Force Closure of Philadelphia Firehouse

(credit: CBS) Walt Hunter
Eyewitness News Reporter Walt Hunter is one of the market's ...
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By Walt Hunter

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Philadelphia Fire Commissioner Lloyd Ayers now says tests have found evidence a number of chemicals leaked into a Roxborough firehouse forcing its temporary closing December 17 after a member of Engine Company 66 was sickened.

The Commissioner says while the search continues, involving the EPA and other agencies, for the source of the leak, the station at Ridge Avenue and Shawmont Street could be closed for months.

Joe Schulle, president of Local 22, says a list of air tests obtained by his union indicates firefighters were exposed to 29 chemicals, many connected to gasoline. The union also provided results of a meter check, giving an explosive reading of 42 percent, nearly halfway to the most dangerous reading of 100 percent.

Schulle also expressed concerns about the long-term impact the chemicals and fumes might have on Engine Company 66 firefighters, emphasizing no one knows how long the chemicals were leaking into the firehouse.

Commissioner Ayers promised local residents the closure would not impact response times but the fire union disagreed saying minutes would be added to some runs.

Engine Company 66 is now responding from Ladder 30′s station, 1.1 miles south on Ridge Avenue.

The Commissioner says the EPA and other agencies are trying to determine if the fumes leaked from underground tanks at nearby gas stations.

Finally, Ayers revealed another fire station at 4th and Arch Streets, closed by a fire last September (See Related Story), is expected to reopen this summer, possibly as early as July.

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