DPW garage threatens West-side neighborhood
Why is there a DPW fuel dump, with a capacity of 13,375 gallons, across the street from the Division Street Elementary School with 400 young students? Because, says DPW Commissioner Skip Scirocco, we can’t afford to move it.
“I’d love to see us move to Weibel Avenue, but National Grid rents over there for $16,000 a month,” said Scirocco. “It’s hard for the city to turn down that money. And if we take that over, where will National Grid go? We want to keep them in the city because if something happens, they are right there.”
Scirocco instead would like to hire more employees for his dispatch center so that the DPW facility on Van Rensselaer Street could be monitored 24 hours a day. “If someone was over there, they could have alerted the police and fire department sooner,” agreed Scirocco. DPW used to have around-the-clock employees, but budget cuts in 2010 eliminated the night dispatch position.
Scirocco’s comments came after a January 2017 fire that burned the building housing the tanks. Arson Investigator Christopher Callahan believes that the fire started underneath a carpentry workbench and could have been sparked by terrycloth rags left there after being used to stain wood earlier in the day. According to the City of Saratoga, the “maintenance shop area on the east end … suffered the most damage”.
“Rags soaked in that type of stain have been known to spontaneously combust after sitting in a closed container after long periods of time, especially if they contain linseed oil,” police arson investigator Callahan wrote in a report filed at City Hall.
Residents of the neighborhood exited their homes fearing for their safety. “We heard a large blast followed by a thud sound,” wrote Daniel Leathem, 32, of Van Rensselaer Street, in a statement to police, “The sounds of several more explosions were heard all within a minute. We both could see that the building adjacent to our property was on fire. The fire was shooting out of the windows and going up the side of the building. At this time we ran to get out … and ran across the street in case the building exploded.”