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Officials investigate Sims fire

Original post made on Nov 11, 2013

The Bay Area Air Quality Management District is investigating Sunday's fire at a scrap metal recycling facility in Redwood City that led to "shelter in place" warnings in the area, including in Atherton and Menlo Park.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Monday, November 11, 2013, 5:46 PM

Comments (5)

Posted by Donald
a resident of another community
on Nov 11, 2013 at 9:56 pm

"Particulate matter -- fine particles of materials including smoke -- measured 2.5 micrograms Sunday"

Something is missing from this statement. 2.5 micrograms is a measure of mass, not density or concentration. Was it 2.5 micrograms per liter? By itself the published statement is meaningless. I am tired of reading articles written by reporters with no technical knowledge who present nonsense statements. I doubt that the BAAQMD spokesperson would be so clueless as to make a statement like that, so I assume that the reporter botched the quote, but I could be wrong.

Posted by sloppy
a resident of Menlo Park: Felton Gables
on Nov 12, 2013 at 12:28 am

It's 2.5 microns -- the size of the particles that are most dangerous.

"Particles in the PM2.5 size range are able to travel deeply into the respiratory tract, reaching the lungs. Exposure to fine particles can cause short-term health effects such as eye, nose, throat and lung irritation, coughing, sneezing, runny nose and shortness of breath. Exposure to fine particles can also affect lung function and worsen medical conditions such as asthma and heart disease."

The reporter completely lost the plot on this one. Without indicating the level of pm2.5, we have no way of knowing about the toxicity.

Posted by Jenny
a resident of Menlo Park: Stanford Hills
on Nov 12, 2013 at 12:40 pm

Yes -- PM2.5 means particulate matter measuring 2.5 microns or smaller. Most of the particulate matter formed in combustion is PM2.5 and it is of concern because it can travel deep into the lungs and because it can be composed of toxic materials. Hopefully EPA or BAAQMD was taking samples and will be able to tell us how toxic the PM2.5 we all breathed was... chromium, lead, mercury, manganese...

What about the nonsensical BAAQMD spokesperson statement "Oftentimes ... the fires burn so hot that the materials get burned in the combustion of the fire..." <<what?>> some job training might be in order.

That metals recycling operation should not be allowed down there -- should be a Crissy Field type park.

Posted by V
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Nov 12, 2013 at 1:45 pm

"We're definitely smelling the toxic smoke from this fire, and are hunkered down in the house with the windows closed," a Menlo Park resident posted online Sunday. "Is anyone else getting a headache from it?"

Not only a headache to start with, but then burning eyes with tearing, followed by serious muscle weakness with difficulty thinking, mild nausea, noticeable breathing impediments, with my throat sore, swelling. I have an immune system disorder from persistent infection, and thought, “If I keep getting worse, I’ll call 911,” visualizing the functional beauty of an air mask. (10/12: Symptoms reduced in intensity, but most remain. Visible new dust ubiquitous. Ordering more HEPA filters, masks, etc.) Web Link

Initially, I thought a motor on some two-year old equipment inside my leaky, old apartment was burning up, so I quickly turned it off and unplugged it. Trying to let in fresh air from the window above it, the stench of burning chemicals poured in. So next I assumed some workers in downtown Menlo Park must be using some terrible remodeling chemicals; but it smelled even worse than a noxious roofing mixture, much worse than anything I’ve ever smelled in my four years living near Santa Cruz Avenue. Confusion can set in with angioedema (B/P can drop), so the possibility of a massive toxic plume of smoke billowing into my “w/original-windows” unit never occurred to me. Let alone that it originated from 3-3/4 miles away, wind-wise.

Just as I was soon to leave my apartment - thinking from my physical reactions I likely did not have the strength to drive any distance, but assuming I would feel much better getting away from Santa Cruz Avenue, or to ER - I got the first of three fire department robo-calls - two Sunday, and one Monday. I almost didn't answer the call, thinking, "I gotta hurry up to get out of here so I can breathe!"


Gratefully, due to that automated call, I never did open my front door. My IQAir air purifier was already cranked up to maximum due to sickening smells filling my apartment interior. Later, I only felt any breathing relief sitting right next to the air purifier, after working to seal up my unit from inside. (Note: Last night the prefilter filled, after only a month of use. The original prefilter lasted 12 months.)

Knowing my building, in its 7th decade, is not fully sealable, I did my best with packaging tape, recycling papers and plastics to fill in gaps. Wished I had Play-Doh for quick filler. Still found more gaps hours later that I had missed (e.g. door sill).

KPIX-5 News had only television coverage I could find. Of this link’s 2:15 min. video, see 0:58 for: unhealthy air starts at 35 and Monday’s air quality was often almost off the charts measuring 114 at 6 PM. (Being sensitive, I still smell the air as bad.) Web Link

Posted by Hmmm
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Nov 12, 2013 at 7:59 pm

I'm in downtown Menlo right now & the smoke scent is palpable. Where I live in EPA, it's not this discernible.

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