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Emergency Officials Work to Draw Lessons from Bovoni Fire

April 16, 2008 — An analysis of the response to last week's explosion and blaze at the Bovoni dump concluded that agencies followed internal protocols, but showed there are still lessons to be learned from the incident.
The explosion and fire at the site are still under investigation by the V.I. Fire Department, according to Fire Chief Glenn Francis.
"Our investigation is not over yet," he said. "It will be open until we get more information."
Caused by a gaseous explosion, the fire sent black smoke hundreds of feet into the air and could be seen on the western end of St. Thomas.
A trackhoe being operated in the dump was in the vicinity of old cars and tires, Francis said.
"The trackhoe operator was working on removing scrap-metal debris, and that is when the explosion occurred," he said. "The fire ensued after that."
Francis has doubts about methane gas being in the area where the fire occurred, as there is not a lot of decomposing garbage at that site. The fire site contained such material as metal and rubber tires.
"I am more leaning towards gasoline or propane as the possible explosive gases," the chief said.
His office intends to make some recommendations to mitigate the risks of future fires in the dump. These recommendations may address the proper disposal of propane cylinders, stripping of dumped vehicles, and cleanup and excavation of the area.
EPA air-quality technicians were still evaluating the air at the site as late as Saturday, but their measurements were proving well below thresholds that would require action, according to Mike Solecki, an EPA federal on-scene coordinator.
Solecki complemented the firefighters' work in extinguishing the fire by pulling it apart. Firefighters at the incident "had to dig it out and extinguish it," Francis said. He continued, "Covering it would have allowed for air pockets, and that would have been the perfect situation for tires to continue to burn."
The landfill is operated by a contractor, A-9 Enterprises.
"The firefighters, along with A-9, were determined to extinguish the fire," Francis said. "This was the best operation we could have with the resources we have."
The fire, which led to school evacuations and road closures, triggered the need for an incident response from the V.I. Territorial Emergency Management Agency.
The day following the fire, Steve Parris of VITEMA conducted what emergency-management personnel call a hot-wash debriefing of the incident response. Participants in the debriefing included such responding agencies as the Waste Management Authority, Public Works, Police Department,Fire Service, Emergency Medical Service, the Education Department and the Office of Management and Budget.
The debriefing gave the agencies an opportunity to evaluate how well their response complied within their agencies' internal protocols, as well as to see where improvements could be made in future coordinated responses.
"Every agency followed their own internal protocol," Parris said, but, he said there were "still things that each agency admitted they needed to improve."
The analysis of the incident allowed participants to have a broader understanding of responding to various emergencies, and made participants think about additional issues that could come up in future incidents.
"We are taking this opportunity to understand ways that we can improve," Parris said.
Asked why the nearby V.I. Baptist Academy was not evacuated, Parris said the school did not have an evacuation plan in place.
"We recognize that we need to work with them," he said.
The V.I. Baptist Academy would cooperate with emergency response officials, according to school Director Josette Hedrington.
"We would be happy to work with anyone," she said. "We work with Human Services and we have to have an evacuation plan, but what we have is a plan in case of a fire in the building, which evacuates the children within the school grounds, but not one that actually takes them away from the campus."
The Bovoni fire has raised new issues for the school.
"No one ever envisioned having to take the children out of the compound and to somewhere else," Hedrington said. "We actually paid a taxi to take the children away from the area."
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April 16, 2008 -- An analysis of the response to last week's explosion and blaze at the Bovoni dump concluded that agencies followed internal protocols, but showed there are still lessons to be learned from the incident.
The explosion and fire at the site are still under investigation by the V.I. Fire Department, according to Fire Chief Glenn Francis.
"Our investigation is not over yet," he said. "It will be open until we get more information."
Caused by a gaseous explosion, the fire sent black smoke hundreds of feet into the air and could be seen on the western end of St. Thomas.
A trackhoe being operated in the dump was in the vicinity of old cars and tires, Francis said.
"The trackhoe operator was working on removing scrap-metal debris, and that is when the explosion occurred," he said. "The fire ensued after that."
Francis has doubts about methane gas being in the area where the fire occurred, as there is not a lot of decomposing garbage at that site. The fire site contained such material as metal and rubber tires.
"I am more leaning towards gasoline or propane as the possible explosive gases," the chief said.
His office intends to make some recommendations to mitigate the risks of future fires in the dump. These recommendations may address the proper disposal of propane cylinders, stripping of dumped vehicles, and cleanup and excavation of the area.
EPA air-quality technicians were still evaluating the air at the site as late as Saturday, but their measurements were proving well below thresholds that would require action, according to Mike Solecki, an EPA federal on-scene coordinator.
Solecki complemented the firefighters' work in extinguishing the fire by pulling it apart. Firefighters at the incident "had to dig it out and extinguish it," Francis said. He continued, "Covering it would have allowed for air pockets, and that would have been the perfect situation for tires to continue to burn."
The landfill is operated by a contractor, A-9 Enterprises.
"The firefighters, along with A-9, were determined to extinguish the fire," Francis said. "This was the best operation we could have with the resources we have."
The fire, which led to school evacuations and road closures, triggered the need for an incident response from the V.I. Territorial Emergency Management Agency.
The day following the fire, Steve Parris of VITEMA conducted what emergency-management personnel call a hot-wash debriefing of the incident response. Participants in the debriefing included such responding agencies as the Waste Management Authority, Public Works, Police Department,Fire Service, Emergency Medical Service, the Education Department and the Office of Management and Budget.
The debriefing gave the agencies an opportunity to evaluate how well their response complied within their agencies' internal protocols, as well as to see where improvements could be made in future coordinated responses.
"Every agency followed their own internal protocol," Parris said, but, he said there were "still things that each agency admitted they needed to improve."
The analysis of the incident allowed participants to have a broader understanding of responding to various emergencies, and made participants think about additional issues that could come up in future incidents.
"We are taking this opportunity to understand ways that we can improve," Parris said.
Asked why the nearby V.I. Baptist Academy was not evacuated, Parris said the school did not have an evacuation plan in place.
"We recognize that we need to work with them," he said.
The V.I. Baptist Academy would cooperate with emergency response officials, according to school Director Josette Hedrington.
"We would be happy to work with anyone," she said. "We work with Human Services and we have to have an evacuation plan, but what we have is a plan in case of a fire in the building, which evacuates the children within the school grounds, but not one that actually takes them away from the campus."
The Bovoni fire has raised new issues for the school.
"No one ever envisioned having to take the children out of the compound and to somewhere else," Hedrington said. "We actually paid a taxi to take the children away from the area."
Back Talk Share your reaction to this news with other Source readers. Please include headline, your name and city and state/country or island where you reside.