SANTA FE SPRINGS — Fire officials say that a new state law will help them better fight chemical fires like the one that ravaged the storage yard at Marquardt Avenue and Imperial Highway in 1981.
And they say that is especially important in a community that is home to 3,000 industrial businesses.
The law requires all businesses to report the type and amount of hazardous chemicals kept at their site. Although it went into effect in 1986, it is still to be implemented in some jurisdictions, including Santa Fe Springs. The legislation, known as the "right-to-know" law, resulted from a spectacular 1985 chemical fire at the Larry Fricker Co. in Anaheim.
"We will be able to attack fires in a more efficient, safer manner," said Fire Chief Robert C. Wilson, who plans to put the information into a computer. "Right now, we have no idea what's in there. When fire crews show up at these plants, they will have the information available to them."
Forms Sent Out
The Fire Department sent out forms to 300 businesses Dec. 31, which must be returned within 30 days, said Stan Boettcher, a fire marshal heading the newly created Fire Prevention Bureau.
Boettcher, who will monitor the city's hazardous-materials producers, said he will send letters to the remainder of the businesses by May and hopes to have the information in hand by the end of June.
Businesses that handle more than 500 pounds, 55 gallons, or 200 cubic feet of hazardous materials at any time must file an annual business plan that contains the following information:
- A disclosure statement that must include a description of the business and the names of persons who can be called in case of an emergency.
- A plot plan of the facility, showing where hazardous material is stored and handled, and the type of storage container the material is kept in.
- A letter describing how the materials are used, stored, and, if waste is produced, how it is disposed of. Larger companies must also provide an emergency response plan and hazardous-material training for all employees.
In addition, companies must pay an annual fee ranging from $75 to $400, depending on how many materials are used at the site.
Of 81 cities in the county, 53 cities--plus unincorporated areas--will be handled by the Los Angeles County Fire Department, said James Corbett, a battalion chief for the county. He said seven cities that have their own fire departments, including Compton and La Habra Heights, asked the county to implement the program. The other cities have designated their own fire departments as the administering agencies.
Santa Fe Springs created the fire marshal position last year to help implement the state law.
Available by Computer
Although the bulk of fire prevention work involves code inspections, Boettcher said he will also spend a lot of time organizing the program as it gets under way.
He said that once all the information is put into a computer, it will be available to the department's dispatch center.
"It will give firemen an idea of what they are faced with. It will help them pre-plan their tactics," Boettcher said.
For example, magnesium, a metal, creates explosive gases when water is applied to it. Other metals such as potassium and calcium are also not compatible with water, Boettcher said. In those cases, firefighters would have to use a special extinguishing agent.