Clean air advocates warn public of hazardous matter from Kensington fire

Mike Dougherty
July 11, 2018 - 3:39 pm
Smoke still pours from the scene of a huge junk yard fire in Kensington, Philadelphia.

Sam Clover/KYW Newsradio

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PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — A massive fire at a junk yard in Kensington Tuesday night has been extinguished, but clean air advocates say this is just the beginning for surrounding neighbors, as hazardous matter in the air has reached staggering levels.

Fire officials are still on the scene of the scrap yard, which burned nearly an entire city block all night long. 

RELATED: Kensington junk yard fire under control; smoke conditions persist

The property owners were cited in May for numerous code violations. Clean air advocates have been watching the site for years.

At a May 24 hearing, a common pleas judge in Philadelphia ordered BMJ Holdings to comply with all code violations within three months.

Russell Zerbo, advocacy coordinator with the Clean Air Council, has been investigating the scrap yard for years. He said they were cited for just about everything a scrap yard can be cited for.

"Storage of combustible materials exceeding fire code limitations, using extension cords as a substitute for permanent wiring, lacking fire extinguishers, open junction boxes, improperly labeled oil storage," he said.

Kensington fire

He said the entire yard was a disaster waiting to happen. A healthy air rating for particles per square meter is 12. Zerbo said the scrap yard is off the charts, and the fire sent hazardous materials like lead and arsenic into the air at a rapid pace.

"Once you get to 400, it's hazardous for everyone — that's an emergency situation. And the fire last night peaked at 773," he added. "I really hope that this is a wake-up call for the city, for regulators."

Attempts to contact the property owners were unsuccessful.