Fog Attack p.215 on - “It was somewhat of a coincidence that I had read Deborah Wallace’s graphic account of how firefighters had suffered at the New York Telephone Exchange fire (1975), just four hours before my fire station responded to a ‘working’ fire involving an electrical transformer station in London’s West End district”.
“As we approached the incident, thick black smoke was pouring from a room situated underneath a high-rise tower. The reports of burning PVC cables giving off such highly toxic emissions as hydrogen chloride, phthalates, carbon monoxide, benzene, and organics, leading to throat cancers and other fatal conditions, were still fresh in my mind as we climbed down from the pumpers”.
The latest research
We have been aware of the exposure hazard for more than 40 years (see Fog Attack 1992). We now have evidence as to the extent of the problem. However what we don’t know is how we identify and apply ALARP exposure boundaries at fires. How far should we go in balancing risk to firefighters whilst others are also at risk?
As reported in EuroFirefighter 2 (2017) Firefighter exposure to Smoke Particulates whilst wearing PPE (Contaminants) - A key research area, partnered UL with the Chicago Fire Department and the University of Cincinnati, college of medicine, to further investigate the relationship with sub-micron smoke particles
In this book Ms Wallace provides early evidence at a time where firefighters were still exposing their lungs regularly to smoke and toxins. The common response was, the air set is ‘too heavy’ or ‘it’s damaging my back’. Six case histories of fires from 1975 demonstrate the hazardous exposures of smoke gases and toxins.