Lawmaker wants state to check health of first responders at solar farm fire

Published: Aug. 29, 2023 at 4:11 PM EDT
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TOWN OF LYME, New York (WWNY) - Is there a reason to be worried about the health of first responders who put out a fire at a town of Lyme solar farm a month ago? State Senator Mark Walczyk wants to know.

He’s asking for 3 things. One is for the state to check on the health of those first responders. He also would like the results of a state investigation into the fire made public. And he wants a pause on some solar projects.

“I’ve got concerns, especially on the volunteer firefighters. This is pretty unprecedented. When you’re talking about the gases that happen in a chemical reaction like the battery fire in Chaumont, they’re tasteless, they’re odorless, and they’re deadly,” said Walczyk (R. - 49th District.

Walczyk says his concerns for first responders who fought the fire in late July have gone unanswered in Albany.

“It would have been nice at some point if the governor, or somebody from her staff, at least reached out to the volunteer firefighters who had been on scene for days battling this battery, this meltdown, this explosion, this chemical reaction that was happening in Chaumont. They still haven’t even reached out to see what their health concerns are,” he said.

First responders were on the scene for up to 8 hours not knowing what chemicals they were up against.

After Governor Hochul called for a new inter-agency fire safety group, Walczyk wants to know what that group found out - like what air quality data said.

“We really need to know what the exposure in Chaumont was. But we also need to know what types of protocols need to be put in place in the future. I’ve got a lot of concerns about the batteries that are still being installed today in New York state,” he said.

Walczyk is also asking Governor Hochul to put a pause on future state solar projects that use lithium-ion battery storage.

Chaumont Fire Chief William Lipczynski says no one in his department has experienced any health issues related to the fire.

In a statement, the governor’s office said:

“The Inter-Agency Fire Safety Working Group (Working Group) has initiated engagement with representatives in all three jurisdictions affected by recent battery storage system fires. The Working Group is doing its due diligence in performing a full emergency response analysis for all three locations, a time-intensive process being led by the Office of Fire Prevention and Control (OFPC). As a member of the Working Group through the New York State Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services (DHSES), OFPC has been in contact with the Chaumont Fire Department and the Jefferson County Fire Coordinator related to the Chaumont incident.”