New York’s largest firefighters association raised concerns Monday over a proposal to to no longer require fire-suppression systems at gas stations.
At a news conference near the Capitol, the Firefighters Association of the State of New York joined with Assemblyman Anthony Brindisi, D-Utica, to urge the New York State Code Council to keep the mandate in place.
“This regulation has been on the books in New York for decades and has protected many New Yorkers from serious harm,” Brindisi said. “We need to ensure that this vital safety measure continues to be the law in New York.”
The Code Council is in the process of updating New York’s Uniform Fire Prevention and Building Code. In January, a subcommittee recommended removing the gas-station requirement. As it stands, gas stations are required to have a canopy over their pumps that is installed with fire-suppressing chemicals in case of a fire.
At the news conference, the firefighter group showed video of the system in action during a Harrison, Westchester County, explosion in August 2010 that totaled four cars and left six with minor injuries. The surveillance footage showed a red hatchback backing into a pump, leading to an instant burst of flames following by a continuous stream of white, cloud-like powder—the dry chemical suppressant—falling from overhead.
Jim Burns, the president of the Firefighters Association, said the change is particularly concerning given the state’s recent move to require generators at more gas stations in the wake of Superstorm Sandy. While he said that’s the right move, Burns said power generators can be a fire risk.
“That makes it imperative that we continue to mandate fire suppression systems in New York state,” said Burns, a Verplanck, Westchester County, resident.
It’s not clear if or when the full Code Council plans on taking up the proposal. At the January meeting of its fire prevention subcommittee, some members raised concerns about accidental discharges from the fire-suppression system while pointing to the International Fire Code, which has no such requirement.
It was not taken up during the full council’s meeting last week.
There was no immediate comment from the state Department of State, which oversees the Codes Council.
UPDATE: Laz Benitez, a spokesman for the state Department of State, said the subcommittee’s recommendation is “just that—a recommendation.” The State Department oversees the Code Council.
“The Department of State is in its early stages of reviewing this policy, but under no circumstances will the public’s safety be put at risk by these efforts to modernize New York’s fire code,” Benitez said in a statement.