Cully Community Members Respond to Scrapyard Fire

On March 20th, 2018, over 100 community members gathered at Living Cully Plaza to share their concerns and questions about the scrapyard fire that burned for over 24 hours on 75th and Killingsworth, Monday, March 12. Community members developed a long list of questions, and while representatives from several government agencies began to offer responses, there are still many questions that remain.

Living Cully is working with local agencies to get answers to community concerns. Until then, this meeting summary offers a overview on:

  1. Community Concerns
  2. Agency Question and Answer
  3. Future Steps
  4. Resources
  5. Community Questions

1. Community Concerns
Community members gathered in small groups to share about their experiences from the fire. Here is a list of common themes and concerns that were voiced at the meeting.

  • Lack of communication on what was happening and the need/how to evacuate
  • Timing and process of evacuation
  • Fearful and traumatized from experience, in particular immigrant/communities of color who may not have felt safe to answer the door with a fully masked police person knocking.
  • Concerns for short and long term health effects (carcinogens) in air, water, soil (especially in 30 farms and 4 community gardens)
  • Responsibility for financial impacts including clean up costs, home damages, lost income for workers and businesses, health care costs and relocation costs.
  • Resources for people who were permanently displaced
  • Desire for special attention to evacuating pets and elderly and/or disabled populations

2. Agency Question and Answer
Agency representatives spent some time responding to community concerns. Here is a summary of their responses. (For complete conversation notes, read meeting minutes here.)

Andrea Hamberg from Multnomah County Environmental Health: Most concerned with short-term health effects rather than long-term effects.
Nina DeConcini from DEQ: permitting, air monitoring (back to base line)
Courtney Patterson from PBEM: they moved to evacuate after getting the air quality measurement. Provided information and resources for people to join their Neighborhood
Jeremy Van Keuren from Emergency Team: Offered response to concerns about Police. Answered some questions about why they chose the announcement tools

3. Future Steps

  • We need more resources to prepare families for future events**
  • Local shelter location
  • Training for disaster response
  • Cully emergency response team: bring LISTOS training from the City
  • Create neighbor-to-neighbor resilience networks
  • We need better communication with community in the future
  • Register people for emergency Alerts (Bureau of Emergency Management will help)
  • Improve immediate emergency response:
  • Hand out mask
  • transport to shelter
  • communication alerts
  • pets (where do they go?)
  • food/drinks
  • quicker evacuation
  • Specific attention to disabled/elderly populations
  • We need housing and resources for displaced people
  • We need more fire hydrants
  • We need to create better laws and policies for regulately businesses better.
  • We want long-term health assessment due to the fire from the carcinogens we are exposed to.
  • We need help cleaning homes

4. Resources

5. Community Questions
Note: these questions have been sent to agency partners. Living Cully will publish future responses.

General Health:

  • What are the long-term health effects? *****
  • How does it affect pets and animals?
  • How does the soot and toxic chemicals impact groundwater?
  • Is the water safe to drink?*
  • Where do we go for health care? (Such as sore throats, headaches) *
  • How long were students at Sacajawea? How long were they exposed to the smoke, as children are more vulnerable than adults? What is/was the clean up plan at Sacajawea?
  • What is still toxic for kids who lick and touch everything?

Air quality:

  • What did we breath? ****
  • Is the air still polluted? * What are the long-term health effects?**
  • What is the smelly stuff in the air still? What do we do about it?
  • When they start digging and cleaning at NW Metals, will someone be monitoring air quality?
  • What is the baseline air quality in Cully? What were the measurements during the day and after the fire?

Soil:

  • We have 30 farms and 4 community gardens in the community. Are they safe? (Note: Cully is a food desert and relies on urban farming for local fresh food and local economy)
  • How will the smoke and toxics affect the soil? ***
  • Outside the evacuation zone is the soil safe?
  • Can we eat foods from farms or gardens?**
  • Is it safe to grow and plant in the soil that is in the evacuation zone?
  • What contaminants from the fire should we test for in the soil?

Cleaning:

  • How do we clean up the odor, soot and carcinogens? *
  • Who is responsible for cleaning up the site? What is the clean up plan?*
  • How long will it take to repair homes that were damaged from the fire?
  • There are particles still settling or re-settling in my home. Is it okay to breath in these particles when it’s airborne when cleaning? What is the process of professionally cleaning it? How can I access professional cleaners?
  • How do I know if I need to clean my house?
  • Do we change our filters? Is the HVAC system in my house affected by the fire? What are the effects of turning it back on?
  • What can be recovered from our apartments that filled with smoke?

Financial Responsibility:

  • Who will pay for:*******
    • Damages
    • Hotel/temporary displacement
    • Health care
    • Cleaning costs
    • Legal help and insurance
    • Garden clean clean up and lost income/economic benefit of food
    • Business losses
    • Trauma counseling
  • What is the owner’s responsibility and liability for this fire that impacted the community?

Emergency Response:

  • Why did the evacuation happen so late?**
  • Who made the decision to evacuate? When?
  • Are there adequate fire hydrants for future fires? And are the fire hydrants in the proper places in order to protect homes from this kind of industrial disaster since we are industries here?
  • Why were businesses like La Clinica evacuated earlier than residents were evacuated?
  • Why has it not been declared a disaster? When will it be declared a disaster? This was a five alarm fire!
  • What does a five alarm fire mean? What are the different categories of alarm? Could we have another five alarm fire in this industry-heavy neighborhood in the future?
  • Why was there no help for pet evacuation?
  • Were disabled folks given special attention or evacuation support?
  • Where can we go next time this happens? Is there a plan in place for the next fire?*
  • What groups are providing free food?
  • Why didn’t the emergency response team go door-to-door earlier in the day?
  • How can we ensure the non-native english speakers are properly informed in the future?
  • When will you have Spanish training and materials from the Neighborhood Emergency Team?

Etc.

  • Why did this happen in the first place? *
  • Are we going to continue allowing other junk yards to open or be established in our community?
  • What can we do about current junk yards in our neighborhood that may also be at risk of a hazard? **
  • Did the city receive prior complaints about NW Metals? If they did, what did the city do about it?
  • Is it legal for junkyards to be there? How are these industries regulated?
  • Why did we run out of water?
  • Will we be ignored?

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