Gas station fire suppression in NY could be extinguished

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — The foam used by firefighters to extinguish gasoline fires is similar to chemicals used in fire suppression systems at gas stations. But more importantly, those systems give fire companies — especially volunteers like Cheektowaga — critical time to save lives should a fire break out at the pumps.

That could change, however.

“Unfortunately, there’s a bone-headed decision made by the state of New York by the Fire Prevention unit and the Building Codes Council that we’re calling on them to change,” said Sen. Tim Kennedy, D-Buffalo.”This proposal, which has progressed too far already, will force our state to take a large step backwards, putting fueling station customers and their neighbors at risk.”

The process is already underway, Kennedy said. The proposal received an initial vote for passage during the Code Council’s Aug. 19 meeting, which moved it into the mandated public comment period.

Kennedy said the bill would abolish the requirement that all gas stations maintain a working fire suppression system. Kennedy said the council claims improved technology means suppression systems are no longer needed. The council could not be reached for comment.

Busy drivers likely don’t even notice them while pumping gas.

“It’s exactly like a fire extinguisher,” said Paul Hovey, general manager of Elmwood Fire Protection, which installs and maintains the systems across western New York. “A lot more pressure, a lot bigger cylinders, but it’s one large fire extinguisher.

Gas stations have been mandated by law since 1984 to have fire suppression systems. The law could face approval as early as the first quarter of 2016.

But even firefighters disagree with the council’s stance.

“We’re a volunteer fire service, so we have to wait until our pagers get activated by dispatch,” said Brian Rogowski, first assistant chief at Doyle Co. 2 in Cheektowaga. “With having these automatic systems, if something were to happen, they automatically activate and start suppressing the fire before our dispatchers can even get the phone call and dispatch us to get there. So it’s saving time and life and property.”

And local drivers say they’d feel differently filling up.

“If they take those systems off, that puts more danger to the people,” said Saba Abu, of Cheektowaga. “And especially a gas station inside a neighborhood. A lot of houses, it’s more dangerous.”

“I would feel that that would not be safe, and who knows how long it takes the fire companies to get here,” said Stephanie Mang, of Kenmore. “I could be burning. The whole neighborhood could be burning, and it’s not safe. It’s just common sense that you want something automatic, not something you have to wait on when you’re in an emergency situation.”

The public comment period for the state’s Code Council is already underway, and could close in November.

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