Local Scrap Fire Causes Harmful Fumes
November 13, 2013
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A scrap fire at a nearby recycling center in Redwood City on Sunday released noxious fumes, lowering the air quality in Menlo Park and Atherton.
The fire was reported Sunday at 1 PM and “shelter in place” announcements were given in both San Mateo and Santa Clara Counties. The warning was lifted early Monday morning after the fire had burned for 17 hours.
According to The Almanac, the fire was at the Sims Metal Management recycling yard, a facility that recycles cars, appliances, and other metal scraps near the Port of Redwood City.
Residents of Menlo Park and Atherton, along with others in the vicinity were told to stay inside and close all windows to block the toxic fumes. Along with a pungent-smelling smoke, the fire released microscopic particles, which where detrimental to the health of those with asthma or lung complications. The adverse effects of the fire lasted such a long time because of a weather pattern that trapped the smoke close to the ground.
The pollution reached such a level that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency sent an emergency-response group to assess the issue. The cause of the fire itself is still unknown, but the facility itself has been indicated as having pollution issues.
Sophomore Andrea Deal stated that the smoke was “definitely noticeable throughout the day” and other students came to school Tuesday talking about the acrid smell.
As the Redwood City-Woodside Patch stated, this outdoor fire fortunately caused no injuries or fatalities. The smoke traveled to Highway 101, where many reported seeing black plumes of smoke.
The incident brought to light issues with Menlo Park’s emergency alert system. According to the Almanac, only about 7,000 of the 13,000 numbers in the system received a call and many emails of the few entered in the system didn’t work. With the number of landline decreasing, the police have also turned to social media as another way to reach citizens; warnings were posted on both Facebook and Twitter. Yet in a more pressing situation, it is imperative that all citizens receive a warning immediately, not guaranteed on such websites. The city is working to better this system, both collecting information from all citizens and making sure they can be reached.