MONTEBELLO — Injuries suffered by two people who fell into razor wire have prompted the City Council to pass a 90-day moratorium on the installation of the security fencing.
The council unanimously approved the moratorium Monday after Fire Chief Robert J. King sought to ban the wire because of the danger it presents to residents and such safety officials as firefighters and police.
After the moratorium ends, the council may pursue a ban, pending discussions among the chiefly industrial business owners who use the wire for security and representatives of the Chamber of Commerce, which requested the moratorium and a review of the matter in lieu of an immediate ban.
If Montebello bans the wire, it would be the first city in the county to do so, said King, who is president of the Los Angeles County Chapter of the California Fire Chiefs Assn. He said the chiefs are concerned about hazards presented by the wire. King said Tuesday that he proposed the ban in June because two people were injured within one week in May near Lohart Avenue and 5th Street.
Arms Severely Slashed
He said the first victim, a 19-year-old man, was standing next to a fence straddling a bicycle when he lost his balance and fell into the wire, severely slashing his arms.
"He almost amputated his arm," the chief said.
The second, an 11-year-old boy, was riding a bicycle when he, too, fell into the wire, cutting his arms and legs. Both victims were hospitalized, the chief said, adding that in both incidents firefighters were called to the rescue. The firefighters' coats and gloves were also slashed, he said, with one fireman cutting his fingers.
The wire consists of a narrow, flat piece of metal with razor-sharp edges and intermittent, equally sharp spikes shaped like an H. The wire is coiled and often placed on top of wooden or chain-link fences.
Razor wire, which began to be used widely in industrial areas about five years ago, is also dangerous because it snaps back when cut, King said.
King declined to disclose the victims' identities or the business or businesses where the accidents happened. He said the wire fence was close to the ground and that the wire was confiscated by the fire department.
In some cases, he said, the wire has been installed less than five feet from the ground on main thoroughfares and in others it has been placed on top of regular fencing and has fallen to the ground.
"It's very hazardous and the industrial people know it's hazardous, but it is a good deterrent," King said.
Jim Davis, owner of Peerless Pumps and an opponent of a ban, said in an interview that installing the wire around the parking lot of his factory was the only way he was able to stop a series of thefts to the cars of his 300 employees.
The wire, he said, has served as a deterrent and does not pose a danger because it is 10 feet above the ground.
Davis said he favors guidelines for the proper use and installation of the razor wire.
Philip Wagner, executive director of the 600-member Chamber of Commerce, said, "We agree that it is dangerous, but we're asking that it be reviewed a little before banning it completely."
Wagner, who said the chamber is aware that guidelines are needed for what he predicts will become a statewide problem, said his organization is conducting a survey of companies who use the wire.
"We're concerned about everybody's safety," Wagner said, "but we also know that there has been a crime problem, which has forced these businesses to resort to these types of materials on their places.
"Is there a compromise? Maybe there's not."