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.