City probes faster air monitoring

News Sep 17, 2009 Ancaster News

Faster air monitoring results likely would not have affected the fire department’s response to a three-alarm industrial blaze in the Ancaster Business Park, says Hamilton’s top fire official.

Fire chief Jim Kay said firefighters were well aware of the hazards they faced upon entering the Archmill House manufacturing facility that was razed on Aug. 25.

“I can assure you we were pretty comfortable knowing what products were in there,” Mr. Kay told the city’s committee of the whole on Tuesday. “It would not have changed our tactics in how we attacked the fire.”

Mr. Kay said the fire produced toxins consistent with a typical residential fire. Without detailed air monitoring information at its disposal, the fire department issued a “shelter in place” advisory to residents, urging them to stay in their homes, shut their windows and ventilation systems to avoid the billowing smoke plume.

City officials, including Ancaster Councillor Lloyd Ferguson, have criticized the ministry of the environment’s response in providing air monitoring data from the Archmill fire.

The Aug. 25 blaze was first detected at 3 a. m. but malfunctioning test equipment delayed the first air quality results until 11:32 a. m. The ministry found several toxins, including particulate matter, benzene, toluene and xylene, but staff concluded all measurements were well below provincial guidelines.

Hamilton councillors nonetheless approved a motion to ask the city’s public health division to investigate how to expedite the air monitoring process. The study includes a review of the current process in which the province’s environment ministry is not considered a first response unit. Public health will also examine the implications of using a third party contractor or creating the city’s own emergency air monitoring unit.

Mr. Ferguson said the study should examine ways to improve the environment ministry’s response to industrial fires.

“Why can’t the MOE be an emergency responder?” he said. “We needed to know what was in that plume.”

Ward 6 councillor Tom Jackson said a third party contractor could provide faster information during an industrial fire if ministry staff is not immediately available.

“There just seems to be a terrible gap here,” said Mr. Jackson, who represents the East Mountain area.

Mr. Kay acknowledged several local companies who perform air quality testing for a range of industries.

But he could not confirm whether those contractors currently have the equipment needed to conduct testing in accordance with ministry standards.

“(The equipment) isn’t necessarily available today and it wouldn’t have been available that morning,” Mr. Kay said in reference to the Archmill fire.

Armed with the knowledge of material data safety sheets, Mr. Kay said firefighters initially fought the blaze from the building’s interior, before taking a defensive stand and moving to the exterior as the building’s roof began to give way.

Councillors have asked the city’s public health division to review the three options and report back to committee within 60 days.

City probes faster air monitoring

News Sep 17, 2009 Ancaster News

Faster air monitoring results likely would not have affected the fire department’s response to a three-alarm industrial blaze in the Ancaster Business Park, says Hamilton’s top fire official.

Fire chief Jim Kay said firefighters were well aware of the hazards they faced upon entering the Archmill House manufacturing facility that was razed on Aug. 25.

“I can assure you we were pretty comfortable knowing what products were in there,” Mr. Kay told the city’s committee of the whole on Tuesday. “It would not have changed our tactics in how we attacked the fire.”

Mr. Kay said the fire produced toxins consistent with a typical residential fire. Without detailed air monitoring information at its disposal, the fire department issued a “shelter in place” advisory to residents, urging them to stay in their homes, shut their windows and ventilation systems to avoid the billowing smoke plume.

City officials, including Ancaster Councillor Lloyd Ferguson, have criticized the ministry of the environment’s response in providing air monitoring data from the Archmill fire.

The Aug. 25 blaze was first detected at 3 a. m. but malfunctioning test equipment delayed the first air quality results until 11:32 a. m. The ministry found several toxins, including particulate matter, benzene, toluene and xylene, but staff concluded all measurements were well below provincial guidelines.

Hamilton councillors nonetheless approved a motion to ask the city’s public health division to investigate how to expedite the air monitoring process. The study includes a review of the current process in which the province’s environment ministry is not considered a first response unit. Public health will also examine the implications of using a third party contractor or creating the city’s own emergency air monitoring unit.

Mr. Ferguson said the study should examine ways to improve the environment ministry’s response to industrial fires.

“Why can’t the MOE be an emergency responder?” he said. “We needed to know what was in that plume.”

Ward 6 councillor Tom Jackson said a third party contractor could provide faster information during an industrial fire if ministry staff is not immediately available.

“There just seems to be a terrible gap here,” said Mr. Jackson, who represents the East Mountain area.

Mr. Kay acknowledged several local companies who perform air quality testing for a range of industries.

But he could not confirm whether those contractors currently have the equipment needed to conduct testing in accordance with ministry standards.

“(The equipment) isn’t necessarily available today and it wouldn’t have been available that morning,” Mr. Kay said in reference to the Archmill fire.

Armed with the knowledge of material data safety sheets, Mr. Kay said firefighters initially fought the blaze from the building’s interior, before taking a defensive stand and moving to the exterior as the building’s roof began to give way.

Councillors have asked the city’s public health division to review the three options and report back to committee within 60 days.

City probes faster air monitoring

News Sep 17, 2009 Ancaster News

Faster air monitoring results likely would not have affected the fire department’s response to a three-alarm industrial blaze in the Ancaster Business Park, says Hamilton’s top fire official.

Fire chief Jim Kay said firefighters were well aware of the hazards they faced upon entering the Archmill House manufacturing facility that was razed on Aug. 25.

“I can assure you we were pretty comfortable knowing what products were in there,” Mr. Kay told the city’s committee of the whole on Tuesday. “It would not have changed our tactics in how we attacked the fire.”

Mr. Kay said the fire produced toxins consistent with a typical residential fire. Without detailed air monitoring information at its disposal, the fire department issued a “shelter in place” advisory to residents, urging them to stay in their homes, shut their windows and ventilation systems to avoid the billowing smoke plume.

City officials, including Ancaster Councillor Lloyd Ferguson, have criticized the ministry of the environment’s response in providing air monitoring data from the Archmill fire.

The Aug. 25 blaze was first detected at 3 a. m. but malfunctioning test equipment delayed the first air quality results until 11:32 a. m. The ministry found several toxins, including particulate matter, benzene, toluene and xylene, but staff concluded all measurements were well below provincial guidelines.

Hamilton councillors nonetheless approved a motion to ask the city’s public health division to investigate how to expedite the air monitoring process. The study includes a review of the current process in which the province’s environment ministry is not considered a first response unit. Public health will also examine the implications of using a third party contractor or creating the city’s own emergency air monitoring unit.

Mr. Ferguson said the study should examine ways to improve the environment ministry’s response to industrial fires.

“Why can’t the MOE be an emergency responder?” he said. “We needed to know what was in that plume.”

Ward 6 councillor Tom Jackson said a third party contractor could provide faster information during an industrial fire if ministry staff is not immediately available.

“There just seems to be a terrible gap here,” said Mr. Jackson, who represents the East Mountain area.

Mr. Kay acknowledged several local companies who perform air quality testing for a range of industries.

But he could not confirm whether those contractors currently have the equipment needed to conduct testing in accordance with ministry standards.

“(The equipment) isn’t necessarily available today and it wouldn’t have been available that morning,” Mr. Kay said in reference to the Archmill fire.

Armed with the knowledge of material data safety sheets, Mr. Kay said firefighters initially fought the blaze from the building’s interior, before taking a defensive stand and moving to the exterior as the building’s roof began to give way.

Councillors have asked the city’s public health division to review the three options and report back to committee within 60 days.