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Postal Service responds to Rockland fire chief's concerns

By Stephen Betts | Jan 22, 2019
Photo by: Stephen Betts

Rockland — The U.S. Postal Service is defending its response to an incident last month when smoke was reported in the Rockland post office and staff initially refused to evacuate when the fire chief arrived.

The spokesman for the Postal Service called the matter a "soot incident" that did not occur in the portion of the building leased by the Postal Service.

"Postal employees and customers were not affected and unaware of any incident prior to the fire chief’s arrival," Stephen Doherty, strategic communications specialist for the Northeast area of the Postal Service, said in a Jan. 17 email.

"Our postal safety specialists conducted a thorough after-action review, including an inspection of fire extinguishers inside this post office. All fire extinguishers in postal space had unexpired inspection tags attached," Doherty stated. "Issues in common areas or other units within the building would be addressed with the building’s owners. We can’t speak to other areas of the building."

The building is owned by the U.S. General Services Administration, according to Doherty. The city assessment records simply list the property as owned by the United States of America.

Rockland Fire Chief Christopher Whytock said the Rockland Fire and Emergency Medical Services Department has a clear mission, "to protect life, property and the environment."

"We showed up at the post office due to a report of smoke in the building. We did, in fact, find smoke in the building. It was obvious that the postal service employees that I spoke with had no desire to leave the building," Whytock said after hearing of the response from the Postal Service.

He said the building had deficiencies in life safety codes.

"The lack of basic smoke detection is clear. Fire doors that should be providing common areas with proper separation are also not correct by NFPA 101 standards. As far as the fire extinguishers are concerned, I  saw one in the common hallway, and on the day of the initial call, [it] had a tag that showed the extinguisher was past its inspection," the chief said.

"They can respond however they feel necessary. I just think a very productive and meaningful conversation could take place between both agencies so that everyone was on the same page, and public safety, as well as their security, were top priority," the chief concluded.

The chief had earlier said he contacted a supervisor for the Postal Service at the regional offices in Portland following the Dec. 20 incident and "was told right up front that I had no authority to enforce codes in their building."

He said he was informed that he could leave his “list of findings” with the person who is responsible for building maintenance, and she would talk to the postmaster in Rockland.

The smoke was traced to a boiler problem.

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Comments (6)
Posted by: James Clinton Leach | Jan 24, 2019 06:41

I'm thankful and grateful we have such a responsive Fire Department ...Both the Police Department and Fire Department are top knotch...


Posted by: Stephen K Carroll | Jan 23, 2019 15:59

Sounds like the fire department is doing what they normally do making something out of nothing. The FD is simply protecting their 2 million plus budget.

Posted by: Alan Benner | Jan 23, 2019 11:56

Sounds like the need for contacting congressional assistance from our members of congress to help sort out this important situation.

Posted by: Jim Gamage | Jan 23, 2019 09:00

we rent 3 offices upstairs.  Nobody from USPS contacted us at all.  The upstairs was full of fumes for 2 days.  No heat.  terrible.




Posted by: Kendall Merriam | Jan 22, 2019 16:50

Not only postal employees; there are private citizens that rent offices in the postal bld.

Posted by: Francis Mazzeo, Jr. | Jan 22, 2019 13:22

The fire department performed their duty and the USPS is acting like a bully. Had some harm come to a postal worker they would blame the city.

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