EPA: NUCLEAR WASTE CLOSER TO BRIDGETON LANDFILL FIRE
Bridgeton landfill, West Lake landfill in distance. Taken Oct. 2015 (Kevin Killeen/KMOX)
March 24, 2016 - KMOX
BRIDGETON, MO. - The EPA released new data showing the underground fire at the Bridgeton landfill is much closer than we thought to the nuclear waste from the Manhattan Project.
Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster says the new data places the radioactive waste "hundreds of feet" closer to the fire than previously known.
The Neighborhood Moms group spokesman Dawn Chatman now worries they won't have enough time to build a firebreak barrier.
"As a resident living here, I'm horrified, I'm scared, but I'm really angry right now," Chatman told KMOX, her voice cracking at times. "They should have known this five years ago, six years ago when this fire started."
Landfill spokesman Richard Callow released a statement saying the community now has a better idea of where the nuclear waste is:
"EPA has determined that the radioactive impacted material (RIM) is not threatened by the underground smolder, which is neither moving into the north quarry nor into West Lake Landfill," Callow said in the statement. "It has found no new risks to health. This all seems like a good and important step toward reaching a final decision by the end of year."
Attorney General Chris Koster took a different approach:
"Today's report confirms that EPA has never had a clear picture of the extent of contamination at the West Lake landfill, and it is deeply concerning that it took EPA so long to figure that out," Koster said in a statement. "The EPA has yet to reveal its plan for preventing the fire from ever reaching the waste. It is long past time for the federal government to transfer responsibility of the site to the Army Corps for swift and certain remedial action."
Photo by Pattonville Fire Protection District (Chief Loehrer on left - Chief Dotson on right)
March 18, 2016 - Pattonville Fire Protection District Facebook
During the March 15, 2016 Board of Directors meeting, the Pattonville Fire Protection District officially appointed David Dotson to the rank of Fire Chief of the District.
Chief Dotson has over 28 years of fire service experience, and has held the ranks of Firefighter/Medic, Captain, Battalion Chief/Training Officer, and Fire Chief Transitional Officer. Under his tenure as Training Officer, he has been instrumental in expanding the District's Fire Command Simulation Training to regional and statewide audiences, with most training being funded through a mix of state and federal grant funding.
The District has been transitioning leadership for several months with the impending retirements of Fire Chief Terry Loehrer and Deputy Chief Fire Marshall Paul Richard. Fire Chief Terry Loehrer will continue to guide the remaining departmental transition as Chief Administrative Officer until his retirement on January 3rd, 2017.
December 16, 2015 - Pattonville Fire Protection District
BRIDGETON, MO. - Congratulations to each Scott Jones promoted to the rank of Captain, Darren Ketcherside promoted to the rank of Captain, Steve Rogger promoted to the rank of Battalion Chief, and Corey Irelan promoted to the rank of Deputy Chief of Training and Operations. Then men and women at Pattonville Fire District are excited to work with all of you in your new roles!
Congratulations also to Captain Stan Souden on your retirement! We hope you enjoy the time with your family!
PATTONVILLE FIRE PROTECTION DISTRICT USING DRONES TO HELP FIGHT FIRES
October 30, 2015 - KTVI BY PATRICK CLARK,
BRIDGETON, MO. - For first responders, the best tool in their belt to help fight fires might be up in the air.
"In this particular case, we have an issue with fire in an attic area of what looks like a garage or front living room," says Matt Lavanchy, Assistant Chief Pattonville Fire District. "We have a fire issue with the side of this house, side B."
On Friday morning, firefighters from the Pattonville Fire Protection District were called to this Bridgeton blaze off Avery around 2:30 a.m.
It marked the first time they were able to use their new unmanned aerial vehicle to give them a bird's eye view and reduce the risk of an educated guess.
"With this technology, we're not guessing anymore," says Lavanchy. "We know where the seed of the fire is, we know where the fire is progressing too, and we know where the fire is going to go. We see in these videos and these pictures where it's safe to put a firefighter.'
Pattonville bought two UAVs earlier this year and have three people trained to use them. At the scene of this Bridgeton fire, all anyone could see from the ground was a big, black cloud of smoke billowing hundreds of feet into the air.
"But with this technology we're able to see through the obstruction and see what the true issue and what the true point is where we need to make our attack," says Lavanchy.
The new gear is already being called a game changer.
"Something can look perfectly normal to the human eye, but with thermal imaging it can show you that there's a monster behind the room or a wall or anywhere else," says Lavanchy.
While the debate on drones continues, firefighters already implementing unmanned aerial vehicles will tell you, they're here to stay and help.
"We use it for life safety," says Lavanchy. "Whether it's a firefighter or a civilian, that's what the use is for."
FIREFIGHTERS EXTINGUISH SMALL BRUSH FIRE AT WEST LAKE LANDFILL
Photo by Pattonville Fire Protection District
October 25, 2015 - St. Louis Post Dispatch By Denise Hollinshed
Pattonville firefighters extinguished a small fire caused by a faulty switch on an electric pole on the site of the West Lake Landfill at St. Charles Rock Road at Taussig Road Saturday afternoon.
Pattonville Fire Protection District's Battalion Chief Ken Aydelott said a passerbyers noticed a small brush fire at St. Charles Rock Road and Taussig Road about 2:13 p.m. The fire department responded and quickly extinguished the brush fire from the roadway.
"The fire was knocked out quickly," Aydelott said.
Aydelott said the fire was the result of a faulty switch on an Ameren utility pole, located inside the landfill's perimeter fence, that dropped hot ambers from the faulty switch. The switch had overheated, causing hot metal to drop below and igniting the fire. He said the fire was unrelated to anything in the landfill.
The last small fire at the landfill was February 2014.
EMERGENCY PLANS FOR WEST LAKE LANDFILL STOKE FEARS
Karen Meadows carries her sons Dresden Meadows, 3, and Corwin Meadows, 13 months, to the family van during a surprise evacuation drill she ran with her children from their home in St. Charles County on Wednesday, Oct. 21, 2015. Meadows blew an airhorn in the kitchen at the house at 9 a.m. to start the drill and then she and her seven children scrambled out the door like they would in the event they need to evacuate their home if a radioactive plume of smoke is released from the West Lake Landfill in Bridgeton. Photo By David Carson, email@example.com
October 26, 2015 - St. Louis Post Dispatch By Blythe Bernhard, Jacob Barker
BRIDGETON - 'FEAR THE UNKNOWN' The fire in Bridgeton and the contamination at West Lake are nothing new. The Bridgeton Landfill has smoldered for almost five years, which put new attention on West Lake Landfill, contaminated in the 1970s after a contractor illegally dumped uranium processing waste there.
In 2013, the situation at the Bridgeton Landfill was arguably worse. There wasn't a cap and Republic Services didn't have a way to treat contaminated liquid leaching from the landfill. Some residents say the smell is better but still far from fixed.
Even Republic Services has said that in 2013, the fire was moving toward West Lake and expanding. It contends that is no longer the case.
Koster's office, in an emailed response to questions, said its lawsuit had already resulted in a cap over the Bridgeton Landfill to control odors and other fixes to manage the smoldering landfill.
"While the litigation continues, at least three facts are clear: One, the Bridgeton landfill still is burning," Koster spokeswoman Nanci Gonder wrote. "Two, the burning landfill has contaminated natural resources of our state. And three, the landfill contains an unknown amount of radioactive waste left over from the construction of the atomic bomb, and no one is certain what will happen if radioactive material begins to burn."
Gonder wrote that the reports were compiled as part of the lawsuit and that "we had a choice to either share those reports with the public or to keep them secret. We chose transparency."
Pattonville Fire Protection District Assistant Fire Chief Matt LaVanchy, who has been a key player in the development of emergency plans, said he did not think anything had gotten worse in recent months. But it's also not getting better.
"I don't think things have changed at the landfill, at least in terms of the spread of the fire," he said. "The caveat to that statement is it's also not showing any signs of decreasing in intensity."
What has changed is the awareness of the situation, he said, primarily because of the emergency plans and Koster's reports.
"It's human nature to fear the unknown," LaVanchy said. "Unfortunately, this is one of those things where there's not a lot of information because there's not a lot of radioactive dumps with a fire next to it."
Some people have cited nuclear disasters such as Fukushima and Chernobyl on social media, but Ed Smith, who monitors the landfills for the Missouri Coalition for the Environment, said there was no nuclear reactor at West Lake.
The concern, he said, is what would happen to the radioactive material should the fire reach West Lake. If the smoldering material turns into a traditional, flaming fire, it could move the waste beyond the landfill fence, Smith said.
The EPA acknowledges some uncertainty over what would happen if the radiological waste came into contact with a fire. It plans to study the scenario, even though it doesn't see it as imminent.
"We want something more definitive than a maybe, which is why we're spending a lot of time trying to flesh this out with a lot of radiological experts," said Brad Vann, EPA's remedial project manager for West Lake.
The agency has become more vocal as concern has grown, trying to reassure residents that the fire is not moving toward West Lake.
Even if the fire reached radioactive material, "we don't expect that to be something that would spew out like a volcano," Vann said last week.
The radioactive elements of uranium and thorium thought to make up much of the processing waste are heavy enough that EPA suspects they won't be easily mobilized. It's their decay products - radon and radium - that could pose a risk. But the threat would mainly be for onsite workers who might inhale radon gas before it dissipates.
That being said, the EPA plans to monitor groundwater, where levels of radium above EPA standards have been detected.
October 5, 2015 - KMOX Kevin Killeen (@KMOXKilleen)
ST. LOUIS COUNTY, MO. - If the underground fire at the Bridgeton landfill reaches nuclear waste in the nearby West Lake landfill, St. Louis County emergency planners say they're ready.
County Executive Steve Stenger has released to KMOX a plan drafted in October of 2014, which aims "to save lives in the event of a catastrophic event at the West Lake landfill."
The 11-page document warns "there is a potential for radioactive fallout to be released in the smoke plume and spread throughout the region."
Cities in the potential path of radioactive fallout are listed: Bridgeton, Hazelwood, Maryland Heights, the village of Champ and the city of St. Charles.
"This event will most likely occur with little or no warning," the study claims.
It also warns that local resources may not be adequate, and there will be a need for assistance from federal sources, the private sector and volunteer organizations.
In releasing the document, Stenger says he wants the public to know that the county is preparing for an event that everyone hopes will never take place.
"None of this is meant to be alarmist, but you have to be prepared," Stenger says.The disaster plan would go into effect under the direction of the first responding fire department to the landfill in the event of a surface fire.
Pattonville Assistant Fire Chief Matt LaVanchy says if someone were to call 911 and report smoke coming from the landfill, his team would go in first.
LaVanchy says equipment would be in place "within a half hour" to test the smoke for possible radiation.
If radiation were detected, some nearby residents would be urged to evacuate, and others would be urged to take shelter in their homes.
The plan envisions designated evacuation routes with police and barricades controlling the flow of traffic. Transportation at designated pick-up areas using church or school buses would be provided for evacuees who don't have their own transportation.
The Red Cross and Salvation Army would be called upon to assist with evacuees.The plan does not identify any specific facilities where evacuees would be sheltered. Family pets would be admitted to shelter facilities for evacuees.
In accordance with state law, no one would be forced to leave their residence after being advised to evacuate, the plan says.
But the plan says re-entry into evacuated areas would only begin after the Unified Command Post has declared the area safe. Residents who were told to take shelter would await an "all clear" declaration before going outside.
Notifying the Public of an Emergency
Mass media, text messages and public address systems on the county's tornado warning sirens would be used to alert the public if a landfill emergency exists.
"We would want the public notified as soon as practically possible," Stenger says, "and if there was evidence that we were in imminent danger, we would notify the public immediately."To prepare your cellphone to receive a text message of an actual landfill emergency, the county has provided a link.
Stenger released the disaster plan to KMOX after we reported last week about some landfill area residents receiving online brochures at their request about how to respond to a radiological emergency.
Stenger wanted to make it clear that the county has a larger plan in place that is being fine-tuned to prepare for a worst-case scenario.
ST. LOUIS COUNTY PREPARES GUIDELINES FOR RADIATION EMERGENCY
October 1, 2015 - KMOX By Kevin Killeen (@KMOXKilleen)
ST. LOUIS COUNTY, MO. - Instructions on what to do in the event of a radiological emergency have been prepared by St. Louis County - but there are no plans to widely distribute them to those living around the West Lake landfill.
The brochure, which does not mention the West Lake landfill, is based on a Centers for Disease Control brochure and marked "provided by St. Louis County."
Dawn Chapman, of the Just Moms landfill watchdog group, says it's good to see the county is planning ahead about what to do if the landfill fire reaches the nuclear waste.
"You know, it explains where to go in your home should there be radiological, nuclear fallout," Chapman says. "What rooms to go to, what you're going to need. It talks about shutting of your AC. I mean, it really is a scary read."
Chapman says she obtained a copy of the brochure from the St. Ann Business Association, with the understanding that copies of the brochure were going to be distributed to the public at a booth during a food truck fair planned in St. Ann this Sunday.
A spokesman for St. Louis County Executive Steve Stenger confirms the St. Louis County Office of Emergency Management prepared the brochure based on a template from the CDC.
Spokesman Cordell Whitlock says the county has been invited to participate in the St. Ann event, but has not made a commitment to do so at this time.
Whitlock also says there are no plans for any mass mailings of the guidelines, but that a handful have been distributed to "residents who requested them."
"If there is a radiation emergency, St. Louis County is fully prepared and fully committed to doing what we can on a local level," Whitlock says.
Pattonville Fire Protection District Assistant Chief Matt LaVanchy has also seen the county guidelines, and praised them as "proactive."
BRIDGETON, MO. - The Olive Garden said thank-you Monday to first responders in Bridgeton. Members of the restaurant's Bridgeton location bought lunch for the Pattonville Fire Protection District and Bridgeton Police Department.
Thanking first responders on Labor Day has become a tradition for Olive Garden restaurants nationwide over the past 14 years.
LANDFILL FIRE SLOWING, CLOSER TO RADIOACTIVE WASTE
August 19, 2015 - KMOX Kevin Killeen (@KilleenKMOX)
ST. LOUIS - The Pattonville Fire Protection District is keeping a close eye on the Bridgeton Landfill, after new data shows the underground fire may be getting closer to nuclear material buried in the nearby Westlake Landfill.
"This thing is going to continue to consume fuel and it is going to seek its source of fuel," says Assistant Chief Matt LaVanchy . "And there is an abundance of it in the north quarry towards the waste and radioactive material."
LaVanchy says the underground fire may now be just 1,000 feet from the radioactive material, compared to 1,200 feet a couple years ago. The good news, he says, efforts by the landfill owner to stop the fire have slowed it down.
"If it continues to progress at the rate that it has been progressing, then yes we have years," LaVanchy says. "But if we go back to the consumption rate that it was three or four years ago where it was moving three feet a month, you know that shortens that time period considerably."
The nightmare scenario LaVanchy hopes to avoid is the eventual outbreak of a surface fire that has made contact with radioactive waste. That, he says, would be an environmental disaster for the region.
11 FIREFIGHTERS RECEIVE RECOGNITION FOR RETIREMENT
(from left to right) Fire Chief Terry Loehrer, Bill Esterline (Fire Board Chairman), Gary Frank, K.J Spurloch, Dan Leibach, Mark Widemann, Jerry Herrmann, Tim Grimminger, Steve Wolf. (Photo by Pattonville Fire Protection District)
August 4, 2015 - Pattonville Fire Protection District
PATTONVILLE - 7 of the 11 retirees that were able to join us today to be recognized for the years of service. Almost 200 years of combined experience in the fire service has left us in the past few years. The current employee group has large boots to fill but we bridge the vast experience leaving us with routine training.
February 10, 2015 - KMOX By Kevin Killeen (@KMOXKilleen)
BRIDGETON, MO. - A new infrared video of the burning Bridgeton landfill raises doubts about claims by the landfill owner that the underground fire is "under control."
"There are heat signatures in the north quarry that were not there before," said Pattonville Fire Protection District Assistant Chief Matt LaVanchy. "It is not under control. You shouldn't have hot spots in the north quarry. You shouldn't have leachate pouring out."
LaVanchy said he requested the flyover video, the first of its kind in six months, after changes in the paper data suggested the ground temperatures are heating up.
"We need more information," he said. "We see things in the video that have not been there before."
The FLIR thermal imaging video shows hot spots as dark and cool spots as light.
In the most vivid portion of the footage (Seen at mark 2:59), the helicopter flies over a capped mound of the landfill that appears completely dark with ribbons of dark, oozing leachate running down a hillside toward a complex of buildings where a truck is seen leaving:
"The leachate doesn't bother me as much as the north quarry hot spots," LaVanachy said. "It doesn't mean that the fire is in the north quarry, but at least the heat front is. It appears to be moving north toward the nuclear material."
Making sure the underground fire never reaches the nuclear material buried in the adjacent West Lake Landfill has been the aim of a lawsuit filed by Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster.
LaVanchy said he forwarded a copy of the video to the Missouri Department of Natural Resources, which was to foward it to Koster.
A neighborhood mom's group spokesman, Dawn Chapman, has also seen the video.
"There is no such thing as having these landfill fires 100 percent under control," Chapman said, "This is a fire and the best they can do is babysit it."
Chapman is calling for more aggressive action to put out the fire.
"When you have a fire and it's under control, you put it out," Chapman said, "Otherwise, you're standing back and watching it do what it's going to do. And that's what you see on this video."
KMOX News is awaiting a response from the landfill owner Republic Services.
'SOMETHING IS DIFFERENT,' EMERGENCY COORDINATOR TELLS BRIDGETON COMMUNITY MEETING
Pattonville Assistant Fire Chief Matt LaVanchy discuses recent data from the Bridgeton Landfill's underground fire, which has been smoldering since late 2010.
Credit Durrie Bouscaren | St. Louis Public Radio
January 24, 2015 - St. Louis Public Radio By DURRIE BOUSCAREN
Residents in municipalities surrounding the Bridgeton Landfill are growing increasingly frustrated with the pace of cleanup efforts and a "lack of communications" between environmental agencies tasked with overseeing the project.
At a monthly community meeting in Bridgeton, Pattonville assistant fire chief Matt LaVanchy said recent data showed higher temperatures than ever in the northern area of landfill. Until recently, the underground fire was mostly in the south part of the landfill, known as the "south quarry." The north quarry is closer to the West Lake Landfill, which contains World War II-era uranium processing residues, or nuclear waste.
"Something is different today than what it was before the holidays. The smells seem to be coming back," LaVanchy said who also serves as the Commander of the Special Operations Team for St. Louis County.
For two hours, presenters outlined updates and took questions from residents about the location of the fire and potential evacuation plans. Should the fire reach the surface, LaVanchy said he would not send firefighters to battle an event unless he knew it was in an area untouched by radioactive waste. That realization drew frustrated reactions.
"My firefighters deserve to know, when they go onto that site, what areas are contaminated (with radioactive material) and what areas aren't," LaVanchy said.
It's hard to say what would happen if the underground fire reached the radioactive waste in the West Lake Landfill, but for local firefighters to respond to it, LaVanchy said "That's one risk that goes a little bit too far."
Of particular interest was an open letter recently written by a former the Missouri Department of Natural Resources official, alleging that the state agency's "cozy" relationship with Republic Services had hampered efforts to address the underground fire.
Between 2012 and 2014, Dan Norris had directed air sampling efforts at the West Lake site, living in a hotel near Bridgeton and "personally experienced what life was like for those who lived or worked around the landfill." In the letter, Norris cautioned that conditions at the landfill are far from ideal.
Due to pending litigation, the MDNR refused to comment on the letter, but they did confirm that Norris worked for the department. MDNR referred to the Attorney General's Office, which did not immediately return a request for comment.
Richard Callow, a spokesperson for the landfill's owner, Republic Services, said in a statement to St. Louis Public Radio, that the smells were due to ongoing construction installing gas extraction wells in the south quarry area.
"This sort of invasive work can, unfortunately, result in odors, even though we make every effort to minimize them. But these improvements are important steps in our continued work to control the reaction and its impacts, and has to be done," Callow wrote.
The resident group, Just Moms STL, is pushing for the Army Corps of Engineers to take over removal of the radioactive waste through a federal program created to clean up disposal sites from the Manhattan Project. Currently, West Lake is classified as a Superfund site, which means the landfill's owner is in charge of cleanup, with oversight from state and federal authorities. But residents say they are concerned that the EPA and MDNR have broken the community's trust, and don't appear to be communicating with each other.
"There are all kinds of ways that it's very complex, and the worst stuff that can happen hasn't exactly happened when people were there with monitors," said meeting attendee Kriss Avery, who lives and works within two miles of the Bridgeton Landfill.
"The way the agencies work, it makes it beyond their 'box,' and they're not able to think outside of it."
The resident group that organizes the monthly meetings, Just Moms STL, is hoping to convince legislators to transfer oversight to the Army Corps of Engineers in the coming year.
BRIDGETON, MO. - It's not what they know, but what they don't know about where the Bridgeton Landfill fire is.
That's why Pattonville Fire Department Assistant Chief Matt LaVanchy (right) says the state Department of Natural Resources is sending a letter to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, asking for more information on where the fire is in relation to buried nuclear waste."The DNR is being proactive in saying we need a better understanding of what's going on underneath the ground with that subsurface fire," he says.
LaVanchy says there's no emergency, and he doesn't have an immediate concern. However, plans for firefighting and evacuation are currently based on estimates, he says, and he'd like more cold, hard facts to work with.
Smoke and steam rise from the dig site at the Bridgeton Sanitary Landfill, May 23, 2013.
(Photo: KMOX/Kevin Killeen)
September 4, 2014 - KMOX
ST. LOUIS - New worries today about the burning Bridgeton landfill, including where the fire is, and how much time it might take to build a firebreak trench to isolate the nuclear waste.
In a letter sent to the Missouri Department of Natural Resources, nationally recognized landfill consultant Todd Thalhamer warns the fire may have spread beyond a line of containment wells closer to the nuclear waste at the West Lake Landfill.
This latest bad news comes after the Army Corps of Engineers announced it will be at least 18 months before they can begin digging a firebreak trench.
That's not sitting well with Pattonville Fire District Assistant Chief Matt LaVanchy.
"We knew that this was going to take some time. The big question is is we don't know how much time we have," LaVanchy says.
Both LaVanchy and Thalmayer are calling for more tests to determine where the fire is now and how far it is from nuclear material.
FIRE DISTRICT FINDS DELAY "WORRISOME" ON FIRE BREAK AT LANDFILL
August 9, 2014 - KMOX
ST. LOUIS -
It was supposed to start this summer, but now the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency says it will be six months or more before it begins digging a firebreak trench to separate the burning Bridgeton landfill from nearby nuclear waste.
The EPA delay is worrisome to Matt LaVanchy, assistant fire chief of the Pattonville Fire Protection District, because he's not exactly sure where the fire ends and the radioactive material begins.
"Our big concern and our biggest fear is that it does go to the point where it's impacting and is coming in contact with the radiological material, and in that case, it's not going to be a good day in North St. Louis County," LaVanchy says.
The EPA has been collecting radioactive soil samples this summer to determine where to dig the firebreak trench.
LaVanchy says it appears they're having trouble finding a clean path.
NIOSH RAISED CONCERNS FOR FIREFIGHTERS NEAR THE BRIDGETON LANDFILLS
July 26, 2014 - KSDK
BRIDGETON, MO. - A branch of the Centers for Disease Control is now weighing in on the radioactive West Lake Landfill and the neighboring Bridgeton Landfill after a recent report from the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health raised concerns for firefighters near the landfills.
The report was done at the request of the firefighters' union because some feel there are still too many unknowns on the other side of this fence. The report found, among other things, the wastes at the landfills have been poorly defined.
It also says equipment used to monitor the underground fire at the Bridgeton Landfill can be compromised by that very fire.
The report says risks to firefighters responding to an emergency could include a landfill collapse and exposure to contaminants in the air.
Matt LaVanchy, assistant fire chief for the Pattonville Fire Protection District tells NewsChannel 5 his department is working with republic services to improve an emergency management plan.
"Between us and the landfill owners we're going to back and write a response to NIOSH and inform that some of the things that they've made suggestions on have already taken place," said LaVanchy.
A spokesman for the landfill says the report, which was requested in February, is outdated. He also says it doesn't reflect progress made between landfill crews and first responders.
STATE CONCERNED ABOUT POTENTIAL FOR SURFACE FIRE AT BRIDGETON LANDFILL
July 1, 2014 - St. Louis Public Radio
BRIDGETON - State agency officials are concerned that the underground fire at the Bridgeton Landfill could break through to the surface.
That scenario was raised in a recent memo by landfill fire expert Todd Thalhamer, who has been consulting for the Missouri Department of Natural Resources.
In his memo to MDNR, Thalhamer said some of the highest underground temperatures so far had been recorded at the landfill in May and early June.
Thalhamer was particularly concerned about measurements at one temperature monitor, where readings above 200 degrees F were recorded just nine feet below the landfill's surface.
That monitor, TMP-13, is located in the narrow neck of the landfill, between the north and south quarries. If you zoom in on the diagram below, it's visible right in the center of the neck. This map is part of the first figure in this infrastructure report.
The monitor TMP-13 is in the middle of a line of gas interceptor wells; the closest one is labeled GIW-9.
Those wells are supposed to keep the underground fire in the south quarry from spreading to the north, in the direction of radioactive waste at the adjacent West Lake Landfill.
Thalhamer said based on the latest temperature readings, "one might conclude the subsurface fire/smoldering event is past the last line of gas interceptor wells." But, he said, he would need to see the next round of carbon monoxide data to know for sure.
In a written statement, Republic Services spokesperson Russ Knocke said "with respect to the notion of daylighting, we do not consider it to be a risk." He said MDNR's consultant Todd Thalhamer was "either misinformed or irresponsibly sensationalizing limited data."
About the temperature monitor that Thalhamer said showed high, near-surface readings? the thing he was most concerned about? Knocke said: "Mr. Thalhamer is aware that TMP-13 is currently inoperable."
The last set of carbon monoxide data for the landfill, issued for May, suggested the underground fire had not moved farther north into the neck. Landfill owner Republic Services is required to test for carbon monoxide in the neck area of the landfill every month, according to the company's latest agreement with Mo. Attorney General Chris Koster. That means June's readings should be available in a couple of weeks.
Charles Nagel, who directs MDNR's Solid Waste Management Program, sent Thalhamer's memo to Republic Services, along with a letter expressing the agency's concerns.
In it, Nagel wrote that the subsurface fire had now spread to encompass "the majority" of the south quarry, and that "the southern portion of the neck" was also experiencing elevated temperatures.
Nagel said that his staff has been working with first responders and staff from the landfill to draft an "Incident Management Plan" for the Bridgeton Landfill, which Nagel said had been finalized as of June 19.
We'll post that final version as soon as we can get it, but in the meantime, here's a draft version from May. It lists the steps that landfill staff will take in the event of a surface fire (see p.8), including calling the Pattonville and Robertson fire departments, and notifying MDNR.
In his letter to Republic Services, Nagel said first responders will be preparing "Incident Action Plans" in preparation for an "Incident Management Strategies Meeting" this month. He said fire district command staff will also visit the landfill to familiarize themselves with the facility.
In addition to developing a plan of action, Nagel said the following steps had been taken to prepare for a potential surface fire:
- Purchase of firefight foam;
- Outfitting of an ATV as an "all-terrain ambulance;"
- Purchase of a "storz connection" to allow the facility's water truck to connect to the fire district's pumpers;
- Development of a web portal to provide Material Safety Data Sheets and updates to the response plan, "such as quarterly maps of landfill infrastructure;"
- Identification of soil stockpiles on the maps (presumably for use in smothering a potential fire); and
- Marking of roadways.
Still, the Missouri Coalition for the Environment's Ed Smith is worried about what could happen if the underground fire breaks through the surface, producing flames and smoke.
"Because there's a host of unknown materials in the south quarry," Smith said. "You could have the release of different types of [toxic substances]. This isn't just a typical brush fire you're talking about."
SMALL PLANE CRASHES NEAR HIGHWAY IN MARYLAND HEIGHTS
June 26, 2014 - St. Louis Post Dispatch
MARYLAND HEIGHTS - A twin-engine airplane crashed short of the Creve Coeur Airport runway early today, and the pilot was able to free himself from the wreck, authorities said.
The crash occurred shortly before 5 a.m. Thursday near the eastbound lanes of Missouri Highway 364, said Corey Irelan, a battalion chief for the Pattonville Fire Protection District. The airplane probably clipped power lines and crashed near a bicycle trail just west of the highway, he said.
The site is along the approach to the airport runway, which is on the other side of Highway 364.
Irelan said several motorists called 911 to report the crash and fire. A short time later, he said, the pilot used his cellphone to alert authorities that he had survived and was alone in the plane.
Of the pilot's condition, Irelan said, "As he was being transported, he was breathing fine and able to talk." Irelan did not know where the pilot is from and whether he was flying in from another city or had been trying to return to Creve Coeur Airport.
The crash and fire destroyed the airplane. Missouri Highway 364 was closed during the emergency response, and there still was some restriction to eastbound traffic as of 7:30 a.m.
Assisting Pattonville Fire were the Maryland Heights, Monarch and Central County fire districts, and the St. Charles County Ambulance district. Irelan said his department led the response because it covers the Missouri 364 river bridge. The first 911 calls put the crash near the bridge.
BRIDGETON EMERGENCY PLANNERS TO CONSIDER WORST CASE SCENARIOS
March 20, 2014 - KMOX
BRIDGETON, MO. - The weekend fire at the Bridgeton landfill has emergency planners scheduled to meet next week to discuss a worst case scenario namely what they would do if a surface fire erupted threatening to contaminate the area with radiation?
Although Sunday's fire was unrelated to the underground fire and far from the part of the landfill that's near buried nuclear waste, emergency planners will discuss how to approach possible evacuations.
"If the wind direction dictates that the plume is headed in a direction where we know that it's populated with residents or even people that are visiting the area, I can tell you that we will err on the side of caution as opposed to jeopardizing anybody," says Pattonville Fire Protection District Assistant Chief Matt LaVanchy.
The plan includes declaring a Code 1000, which would flood the area with police from surrounding municipalities to knock on doors and carry out the evacuation.
NEW MARINE UNIT RESPONSE TOW VEHICLE PUT INTO SERVICE
February 28, 2014 - Pattonville Fire Protection District
ST. LOUIS COUNTY - Pattonville Fire Protection District has just put in service their new one ton Chevy HD3500 crew cab Marine Response Tow Vehicle 4899/4839 that can deploy a four person Type 2 marine rescue response unit that has a 20 foot SeaArk rigid hull boat with a 150hp Mercury motor, and a 12.5 foot IRB Zodiak inflatable boat with a 30hp Evinrude motor. Thanks to the support of our citizens, this equipment was made possible by the funding of the 2008 Bond Issue.
KOSTER THREATENS MORE LEGAL ACTION AGAINST BURNING LANDFILL
Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster, (left) Fire Chief Terry Loehrer, (right) Assistant Chief Matt Lavanchy
February 18, 2014 - KMOX
BRIDGETON - Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster warns the owners of the burning landfill to cooperate more with state and local officials - or face court action.
Koster's comments follow a meeting he held Monday with landfill officials to discuss Sunday's surface fire. That fire near a methane pump on the southern border of the Bridgeton Landfill was quickly put out and was reportedly not related to the underground fire.
Nevertheless, Koster is critical of how the weekend fire was handled - how long it took the landfill owners to notify the Pattonville Fire Protection District.
"This is a dangerous situation ," Koster said, "The Pattonville Fire District needs to be brought in and trained to the highest level, and prepared for a variety of contingencies that could occur in the future."
Koster also wants Republic Service to release carbon monoxide data that could help firefighters gauge where the underground fire is moving.
"One of the reasons we are going back into court is because there is more data we want to receive," Koster said, "particularly the carbon monoxide data from the north quarry. We've asked the court to demand that Republic provide us that in a timely and ongoing basis."
A court date has been set for June 19th.
As the underground fire continues to burn, Koster says he remains committed to digging a firebreak trench to separate the flames from the nearby nuclear material at the West Lake Landfill.
"The delays in the engineering process are coming from the fact that some of the coring samples are still pulling up radioactive material," Koster said, "They are having difficulty finding a clean line."
Koster says he hasn't decided yet whether he would support calls to transfer jurisdiction for the landfill from the EPA to the Army Corps of Engineers - a move which many claim could result in the total removal of nuclear material from the site.
"There is a great deal of research that goes into analyzing what actually is in West Lake Landfill," Koster said, "The Army Corps would very possibly have to re-do and rethink a lot of decisions that have occurred at the EPA level."
BRIDGETON - A Sunday morning fire at the Bridgeton landfill is out, but at least one emergency responder is raising concerns about how the situation was handled.
Pattonville Assistant Fire Chief Matt Lavanchy says an air supply line broke, igniting gases.
Crews were able to bury it with dirt and put it out.
Air quality tests in the area showed no hazardous materials.
But, Lavanchy says what concerns him is that Republic Services did not follow protocol in spotting the fire and notifying authorities, "In this case, we were shooting from the hip early on, for about half an hour, because we weren't getting any information."
A spokesman for Bridgeton Landfill LLC sent KMOX a written response, "As part of our investigation into the origin of the surface fire, we will conduct an after-action review of the entire incident to include notification of and coordination with first responders. The EPA was on site at the time of the incident, and Pattonville Fire Department was early onto the scene, consistent with the response plan. We appreciate everyone's coordination and prompt response this morning."
A nearby resident was in tears while speaking with KMOX at the scene. She said she found out about the fire from her teenage daughter who read about it on social media, "It's time for this to stop and for them to tell the truth. That's what I want, the truth."
The fire was in the south part of the south quarry, on the opposite end of the landfill from where radioactive waste was detected.
Here's Bridgeton Landfill LLC's initial statement on Sunday's incident, including a message for the community:
"This morning, the Bridgeton Landfill LLC project team extinguished a small, surface fire located at the southern border of the Landfill, near the drainage ditch area. The surface fire is believed to be the result of a break in an air-line which allowed oxygen into a small area under the liner. It was quickly extinguished by the Landfill's 24/7 on-site team.
There continues to be steam visible off-site emanating from the area where the surface fire burned part of the liner. The Landfill team is currently covering the burned liner with dirt, but steam may continue to be present and visible for the foreseeable future as a result of hot gas reaching cold air.
Emergency site and contractor teams are now responding to assist with repairs. During the repair process, some off-site odor may be detected while the damaged area of the liner is replaced. In addition, there was damage to the plastic conveyance lines, which allowed some leachate to be released. The leachate was captured and contained within lined ditches, and is being collected for treatment and safe disposal. The Landfill team will keep the community updated on repair work and anticipated completion, as well as continue to investigate the origin of the surface fire.
The Landfill team extends its appreciation to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Missouri Department of Natural Resources, Pattonville Fire Department, and Bridgeton Police Department for their prompt response and coordination this morning."
PATTONVILLE FIRE DISTRICT OFFENDED BY REPUBLIC'S STATEMENT TO KSDK
January 30, 2014 - KSDK
ST. LOUIS COUNTY - In a strongly worded statement, Pattonville Fire Chief Terry Loehrer angrily defended his department's position about the growing concerns regarding the Bridgeton Landfill fires breaching the interceptor wells.
Our report focused on two new concerns. First, Washington University Geochemist Bob Criss said he was positive, based on available data, that the Bridgeton fires have collided with radioactive nuclides in the groundwater. In addition, new information indicated heat from the fires had breached the interceptor well at 56R. Assistant fire Chief Matt LeVanchy spoke to the departments concerns.
Here is the statement made by Republic, which owns the Bridgeton Landfill, followed by Chief Loehrer's press release Thursday on Newschannel 5 at 5 p.m. 5 on Your Side's Leisa Zigman had bombshell documents showing how far back the government considered West Lake extremely dangerous to public health, and the attempts by one federal agencies to get out of having to pay for cleanup.
Republic's statement following our report Wednesday night on NewsChannel 5 at 10 p.m.: "It is irresponsible for Criss and LaVanchy to fuel stories that scare people when the state and federal regulators who actually work on the site repeatedly offer reassurance and caution."
Statement from Chief Loehrer:
"The Pattonville Fire District takes offense to statements made by Republic Services Inc. contained in media outlets last evening. Their statement that called Assistant Chief LaVanchy "irresponsible for fueling stories that scare people" is baseless and demands a response.
"When the Pattonville Fire District is asked about information gained from public sources, and evaluated by several governmental agencies and independent experts, we have an obligation to share that information and advise the public of the impact to our mission.
"The recent disclosure of data at Gas Extraction Well #56R shows that the "neck" area, connecting to the North Quarry, is heating and providing higher levels of CO. The reporting of additional well data in that area, recently mandated by the Missouri Attorney General's office, may provide evidence that the smoldering event has continued to move into the North Quarry towards the nuclear waste site in Westlake. This information is critical to our planning."
ST. LOUIS COUNTY - At about 4:30 PM, your paramedic/firefighters from Pattonville Fire District, along with Maryland Heights and Robertson Fire Districts, were dispatched to a house fire.
Upon arrival, the family was standing outside and told the firefighters there was a fire in the kitchen and the family dog was still inside. One crew went to work to extinguish the fire while another crew searched for the family dog. Within minutes, the family dog was located in a room adjacent to the fire. The dog was alive but struggling to breathe. The crew immediately carried the dog that seemed to be near death to firefighter/paramedics in the front yard.
While this is not a normal victim for the paramedic/firefighters, Pattonville Fire Protection District does keep special equipment on the ambulance for family pets that are suffering from smoke inhalation. The paramedic/firefighters took the pup to the back of the ambulance where they provided emergency care. Several minutes later, the dog began to breathe easier and started to become more alert.
The dog was taken to the vet for further evaluation and treatment by the family. The paramedic/firefighters are hoping for a full recovery for such an important part of the family.
ST. LOUIS COUNTY - There are new developments surrounding a pair of troubled landfills in St. Louis County.
A U.S. senator is taking a closer look at the radioactive West Lake Landfill, and the Pattonville Fire Protection District is taking a stand against the landfill's owners.
Last week Republic Services sent a letter to this fire district accusing assistant chief Matt LaVanchy of creating fear and panic with unprofessional comments and accusations about the Bridgeton and West Lake Landfills. That letter asked that LaVanchy be removed from his role as a liaison.
LaVanchy has spoken to NewsChannel 5 and other reporters on numerous occasions about his concerns over the landfills, and he's very active on a Facebook page run by citizens who are also concerned.
Despite Republic's objections to LaVanchy's comments, Pattonville's chief has decided to keep LaVanchy in his place. The decision to back the assistant chief is drawing kudos from people who live nearby.
"It brings a sense of ease to the community knowing we've got somebody there who knows what he's talking about, and he's there to fight for us, and help us get this resolved," said resident Traci Vette.
There's a weekly conference call that Republic Services and a number of other first responders and the Missouri Department of Natural Resources have been involved in over the last few months. Republic Services says they are no longer taking part in that conference call, but a spokesperson said in a statement that's not anything they're required to do. They will continue to communicate with the fire protection district and anyone else who needs information about this landfill.
Sen. Roy Blunt visited the West Lake Landfill Thursday to get a better understanding of the situation. For a long time there's been a call to get the situation into the hands of the Army Corps of Engineers.
"We need to come to a common conclusion here as to what's the best place to go and how to insist that that government entity deal with this in the best possible and the quickest possible way, and the safest possible way," said Sen. Blunt.
He spoke further about how he's working with other senators and congressmen in the area to figure out the best plan, but he wouldn't go so far as to commit to anything.
January 22, 2014 - Pattonville Fire Protection District
PATTONVILLE - The Pattonville Fire Protection District is proud to announce the recent promotions of Captain Brad Hatfield and Battalion Chief Training Officer Dave Dotson. Both men have provided years of dedicated service, and look forward to utilizing their leadership skills to enhance the operations of our District. Well deserved guys!
REPUBLIC SERVICES ASKING FOR NEW FIRE DISTRICT REPRESENTATION IN LANDFILL TALKS
January 17, 2014 - KTVI
PATTONVILLE - Fox 2 has learned the Pattonville Fire Protection District is reviewing a letter from the owners of the Bridgeton Landfill. Republic Services is asking that someone else represent first responders in meetings about conditions at the landfill.
Local and state leaders participate in a weekly conference call with folks from Bridgeton Landfill. They cover various issues including the movement of the underground smoldering event. This week, the Pattonville Fire Protection District received this letter asking that they remove Assistant Fire Chief Matt Lavanchy from the discussion.
Republic Services has agreed to construct a barrier between the Bridgeton Landfill and the radioactive material buried at Westlake Landfill. It's considered a critical conversation in those conference calls. But the area president of Republic Services wants someone else on the call representing Pattonville.
"Chief Lavanchy has posted theories and rumors on social media and shared the same with television media creating unnecessary fear and panic."
He goes on to request: "A new liaison who shares goals of safety, preparedness and a commitment to open and honest communication with our neighbors be appointed on behalf of the Pattonville Fire Department."
We are still waiting for a response from Pattonville.
And there is another development Friday. Attorney General Chris Koster and Republic Services have agreed that more carbon monoxide monitoring will be done on gas extraction wells in the north quarry. This is the area closest to West Lake. The previous requirement was for CO data in the south quarry.
The agreement was accepted by St. Louis County Judge Michael Jamison. The first submission of data from the north quarry is due on or before February 20th and again in 60 day intervals until June, when a full hearing is set on the state's lawsuit. In a statement, Republic Services says the new data will be forwarded to the Missouri Department of Natural Resources.
PATTONVILLE - Today marks the first day on the job for Pattonville FPD newest team members. Welcome Doyle Washington (St. Louis FD), Nathan Davis (U. City FD), and Casey Jones (Eureka FPD). All three come with great work experience and a passion for serving the community. Good luck with your career, and be safe out there! Glad to have you as part of our team!
Pattonville Firefighter Issues Dire Warning on Nuclear Waste
August 13, 2013 - KMOX
BRIDGETON - A prominent fire commander is calling for the removal of nuclear waste from the West Lake Landfill in Bridgeton as his department monitors an underground landfill fire nearby.
"We need to quit talking about it and take action because it is something that is very serious," Pattonville Fire Protection District Assistant Chief Matt LaVanchy (above photo) says.
According to LaVanchy, the entire St. Louis metropolitan region would be threatened with radioactive smoke if the fire at the Bridgeton Landfill were ever to reach the nuclear site at West Lake.
"This is something that has cost me a lost of sleep, not just because it's in my backyard but there's a lot of innocent people in this area," he added. "If that fire ever gets to that radioactive material, which I'm not saying is going to happen, but there's a potential there for something very tragic to happen in this area."
If that occurred, according to LaVanchy, radioactive isotopes would leach onto smoke particles, carrying the airborne nuclear waste in whichever way the wind blew.
LaVanchy says in the short term, a trench needs to be dug to create a fire break. In the long term, he says the nuclear waste needs to be removed before another fire at the Bridgeton Landfill starts.
Later this week, the owners of the landfill are expected to present a revised plan to stop the fire from spreading toward the nuclear waste.
"It shouldn't be in this community at all to begin with, let alone having a fire 1,000 feet away from it," LaVanchy says. "There is just that much more sense of urgency with this."
24 firefighters worked for over 9 hours to recover body in quarry accident
March 29, 2013 - KSDK>
MARYLAND HEIGHTS - 24 firefighters from Pattonville and several other fire departments worked until after midnight to recover the body a quarry worker that was killed in a quarry accident. The man was buried in a large amount rock which had to be removed by the firefighters to recover the body. The accident happened at approximately 4:00 p.m. on Wednesday, March 27th.
Fire District hiring Firefighter - Paramedic
December 19, 2012 -
The Pattonville Fire Protection District will be accepting applications for the position of FIREMEDIC. All interested applicants MUST COMPLETE AN EMPLOYMENT APPLICATION FORM AT THE FIRE DISTRICT HEADQUARTERS, 13900 St. Charles Rock Road, Bridgeton, Missouri, 63044. We will be accepting applications from 8:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m., Monday through Friday, December 17th through January 4th, 2013.
All individuals applying must first submit proof of a valid Drivers License, current Missouri Department of Health Ambulance Personnel License at the EMT-P level, a copy of Professional Firefighter I and II certification from the Greater St. Louis County Fire Academy or Greater St. Louis County Fire Standards Commission, proof of High School diploma or G.E.D, and resume with no exceptions.
Man pulled from Missouri River after jumping from Discovery Bridge, officials say
November 7, 2012 - St. Louis Post Dispatch
ST. CHARLES - A 51-year-old man was pulled from the Missouri River by rescue personnel this morning after he apparently jumped off the Discovery Bridge in an attempt to commit suicide.
The incident was reported about 10:50 a.m. and the man was recovered north of the bridge about 15 minutes later by Pattonville firefighters. They had been training in a boat near the Blanchette Bridge when the incident was reported.
The man is being transported to St. Joseph Health Center for treatment of hypothermia.
Hot spot, fumes prompt concern at Bridgeton landfill
October 30, 2012 - St. Louis Post Dispatch
BRIDGETON - Pattonville fire officials are concerned about rising underground temperatures at a north St. Louis County landfill and an odor that's generating complaints from people who live and work in the area.
Matt LaVanchy, assistant chief of the Pattonville Fire Department, said temperatures in one section of the inactive Bridgeton Sanitary Landfill have reached 190 degrees and a 40-foot section of ground has collapsed.
Noxious fumes that are bothering residents come from wells drilled in the landfill to deal with the buildup of heat, he said.
While problems at the landfill, just north of Lambert-St. Louis International Airport, have worsened recently, they are not new.
Problems began in January 2011, when the Missouri Department of Natural Resources reported that data from monitoring equipment at the site indicated high levels of carbon monoxide and carbon dioxide and low levels of methane and oxygen, conditions that indicated a subsurface fire.
DNR said at the time that the fire was believed to be located deep within the south central portion of the landfill, 100 to 150 feet below the surface, and posed no threat to public health.
LaVanchy, a member of St. Louis County's hazardous materials response team, said he's spoken with Republic Services and reviewed the company's plans for addressing the heat buildup. The company has told him there's no fire at the landfill, but rather a condition known as subsurface oxidation.
"We've got a lot of questions," he said. It's just a matter of trying to understand what's really going on, what potentially could happen and how to manage that."
Among the concerns, LaVanchy said, is what happens if the temperature continues to rise, or the landfill is exposed to oxygen. He's also worried what happens if the problem migrates to the northeast, toward the radioactive waste.
"We could potentially have a very serious situation", he said.
One person dead after plane crashes at Creve Coeur Lake
October 25, 2012 - St. Louis Post Dispatch
MARYLAND HEIGHTS - One person died overnight after a small plane crashed into Creve Coeur Lake and then flipped on its back, police said today.
The crash happened about 8:40 p.m. Wednesday.
Emergency responders rescued two people from the plane. They were rushed to a hospital, where one of them died overnight, said Maj. Bill Carson of the Maryland Heights Police Department.
The second person remained hospitalized.
Dozens of emergency responders and vehicles, including a police helicopter shining a spotlight on the lake, were at the scene within an hour.
Members of the Lake Saint Louis Fire Protection District dive team waited on shore in case they were needed to recover bodies from the water. A hazmat team was also called to the site to respond to a fuel leak from the plane.
October 21, 2012 - KSDK It could be months before the Pattonville Fire Protection District is back at full force. A pick-up truck with three people inside slammed into one of their units late Saturday night in Bridgeton. Battalion Chief Jim Usry says the ambulance is out of service until they can get it repaired. They won't know the extent of the damage until they can get underneath.
The unit is a bit bigger and more expensive than standard ambulances. Chief Usry says it is situations like these that prove the extra cost is well worth it. "It demonstrates that we've increased the safety component to our personnel. Obviously they were on the shoulder of the road parked, and they were struck, but no impact to the interior for the driver and the passenger of this apparatus," says Ursy.
The three people inside the truck were transported to a hospital where they were treated and released.
Until Pattonville Fire can get the damaged ambulance inspected and fixed, it will rely on neighboring departments if extra help is needed in an emergency.
St. Louis-area officers, firefighter earn Medal of Valor
October 11, 2012 - St. Louis Post Dispatch - A Sunset Hills officer who shot a robber during a home invasion, a Pattonville firefighter who helped a family escape from a tornado and a St. Louis officer killed in a gunbattle will be among Missouri first responders honored today in Jefferson City.
Gov. Jay Nixon will present the Missouri Public Safety Officer Medal of Valor to those three men and five others at the Capitol at 2 p.m.
Each award goes to a public safety officer who has "exhibited exceptional courage, extraordinary decisiveness and presence of mind, and unusual swiftness of action, regardless of his or her own personal safety, in the attempt to save or protect human life."
Gov. Jay Nixon presents the Medal of Valor to Thomas R. Bacon Jr. of the Pattonville Fire Protection District on Thursday, Oct. 11, 2012. Photo above from the Missouri Department of Public Safety Flickr stream.
Medal of Valor awarded to Missouri first responders after tornado rescue, deadly gunbattle and home invasion
October 10, 2012 - St. Louis Post Dispatch - A Sunset Hills police sergeant will be recognized in a Medal of Valor awards ceremony Thursday for his role in ending a home invasion attack a year ago in which a woman was bound with electrical tape by two men intent on robbing her.
Detective Sgt. Robert C. Siscel of the Sunset Hills Police Department is one of eight men who will receive the Missouri Public Safety Officer Medal of Valor. Gov. Jay Nixon will make the presentations at the state Capitol at 2 p.m. Thursday.
Siscel is one of three from the St. Louis area. The others are St. Louis Police Officer Daryl A. Hall, who was off duty when he died in a shootout outside a bar in April 24, 2011; and Pattonville Fire Protection District firefighter/paramedic Thomas R. Bacon Jr., who helped rescue a family from a car as a tornado approached on April 22, 2011.
The award to the Pattonville firefighter stems from his actions on the night of April 22, 2011, when an EF4 tornado was bearing down on north St. Louis County, packing winds between 166 and 200 mph. At 8 p.m. that night, the crews of Pattonville Station No. 1 were on the front ramp of the firehouse, looking for signs of a reported tornado heading in their direction. Sightings had been confirmed in St. Charles County and it was moving into North County.
Within minutes, the crew saw it coming toward the station from the southwest.
"The lightning flashed a bunch and we actually saw the tornado," Bacon said.
They were ordered to take cover in an internal storage closet. Bacon, a private, hesitated because he saw a small sedan get blown onto the firehouse ramp. As the tornado's debris field swirled less than several hundred yards away, the electrical substation across the street exploded, officials say.
Bacon fought the wind to check on the people in the car. He helped them get out of the car and directed them to the firehouse to take cover.
"Fighting the fierce winds and debris, he grabbed the last of the children from the vehicle as he was thrown into the engine bay, where he secured the family with his other crew members who were taking cover in the internal closet," according to the nominating letter by Fire Chief Terry Loehrer.
Bacon described it this way: "The wind was whipping up and it spun the car a little bit. We started grabbing all kids out of the car. When we came in with the last kid, the wind literally took us and pushed us into the bay door."
The tornado passed after five minutes, and everyone safely came out of hiding.
In spelling out the qualifications for this award, the State of Missouri Department of Public Safety says it goes to a public safety officer who "has exhibited exceptional courage, extraordinary decisiveness and presence of mind, and unusual swiftness of action, regardless of his or her own personal safety, in the attempt to save or protect human life."
The 11-member Medal of Valor Review Board includes a fire chief, police chief, sheriff, ambulance district director and civilians with experience in corrections and firefighting.
The other recipients of this year's award will be:
- Curtis B. Bohanon II, of the Jefferson City Police Department
- James C. Cooksey Jr. of the Missouri Highway Patrol
- Joseph G. Heath of the St. John's Ambulance Service in Springfield, Mo.
- Jeffrey S. Elliott of the Springfield Fire Department
- Christopher J. Suchanek of the Cole County Sheriff's Department.