HONORING THE 699 RESPONDERS @ THE 1975 NY TEL DISASTER
5/22/2022- The Fire Bell Club of NY and the FDNY Fire Academy, aka "The Rock" in Randall’s Island, NY commemorated the 699 first responders of the 1975 NY Telephone Exchange Fire (Feb. 27, 1975) with the Memorial Wall and Plaque Dedication Ceremony. With honored speakers including Chief John Hodgens (acting Chief of the Dept) and Honorary Battalion Chief, Sergio Nieto and President, Fire Bell Club.
The highlight of the presentation was an historical depiction of the 1975 disaster by public crusader, ret. FF Daniel J. Noonan from Ladder Company 3 (and one of the remaining survivors) who took on a life's mission to publicly promote service-wide national awareness of the devastating health impact of this modern disaster that occurred over 47 years ago. He spoke nationally about the many illnesses and cancer cases came about from this "plastic fire" due to the exposure of burning PVC piping (Polyvinyl Chloride and other carcinogenic compounds). Mr. Noonan's powerful statement defined this fire to be the 'game changer' for fire safety about fire safety stating "the days of wood and cotton fires are over!".
In addition, a rare and special appearance by Dr. Bard himself, founder of the institution behind the advocacy award and Chief Medical Advisor for F.A.C.E.S. Dr. Bard is one of the first non-departmental medical speakers welcomed by the fire service to offer his professional perspective on the type of exposure of this landmark disaster. "After my military service, I opened my radiology practice in the early 70's in NYC- just a few short years before the Telephone Fire. I remember this day very well. Events like this inspired me to do more... and to offer the kind of care to all exposed service members whose sacrifice deserves the same ‘above and beyond’ attention that they have always provided us."
* DAILY NEWS (5/22/2022): Sickness, death still follow FDNY veterans who fought massive East Village phone exchange fire nearly 50 years ago
* FIRE ENGINEERING: FDNY Remembers Those Sickened in NY Telephone Exchange Fire
* DAILY DISPATCH: Sickness, death still follow FDNY veterans who fought massive East Village phone exchange fire nearly 50 years ago
From Small Firehouses to the FD Academy: A Landmark of Perseverance and A NEW DAY FOR "GET CHECKED NOW!"
Since Dr. Bard and I first met, we were recruited by Dr. Lennard Gettz (former GZ cleanup volunteer) who formed an outreach to all 9/11 responders' cancer cases. We met with countless community leaders and began presenting in small firehouses and group meetings. We met so many who need a second opinion and the kind of medical attention that was not always available to all institutions. Little by little, we started getting the attention of firefighter groups like the RMA (Retired Members' Association), then the Columbia Association who both gave us presentation time. The topic of cancer has always been a heavy one to pitch, and we learned (fast) that bring a cancer patient advocate meant walking carefully through the field of political land mines and sensitivity regulations.
Chief Bobby Halton (Fire Engineering / FDIC) who was himself a major resource and connector in the fire service community. He connected us with Dan Noonan, a powerhouse activist for all the fire service whose thundering presence captured the national scene since 1975- and the rest, as they say, is HISTORY in the making! Together, we took on every podcast and media outlet, reaching even more attention from the fire service where cancer risk may be more prevalent. Over time, our little group became the national order (F.A.C.E.S.) presenting for some of the most recognized groups. Associations began supporting us like the Fire Bell Club of NY (annual meeting at the NYC Fire Museum on 11/2021) and now, at the most recent official commemoration at the Fire Academy (aka "The Rock") set the stage for what's possible with perseverance- and what else we can do next! Under the spirit of a united love for fellow responders, the "Get Checked Now!" button made its way in so many firehouses from Long Island to the inner boroughs to Westchester County, then throughout the national stage like Florida, Texas, Connecticut, New Mexico and even Ontario (Canada).
a special photo of three responder advocates in front of the 1975 Fire memorial wall starting with Dr. Robert Bard (L) + upcoming stories about Ret. FDNY Firefighters Dan Noonan and Sal Banchitta. This video starts with an emotional montage of photos from the event. Special thanks to FDNY Hon. Chief Sergio Nieto of the NY Fire Bell Club.
After 47 years, the 699 FDNY Responders will finally receive proper honors for their sacrifice at the ill-fated, historical NY Telephone Company Fire that occurred on Feb. 27, 1975. Those responders who were unknowingly exposed to the most hazardous carcinogens are finally receiving their well-deserved commemoration of their sacrifice. Since that fateful event, Ret. Firefighter from Ladder Company 3 (and one of the remaining survivors) took on a life's mission to publicly promote service-wide advocacy and education about fire safety while referencing the 1975 fire and all the critical hazards that resulted in many injuries and deaths.
Many illnesses and cancer cases came about from this "plastic fire" due to the exposure of burning PVC piping (Polyvinyl Chloride and other carcinogenic compounds). Thanks to Mr. Noonan's many videos, articles and public presentations nationwide (where he presented the complexity and dangers of this rescue mission) the message of prevention and early detection earned a powerful voice for the main calls to action for all rescue responders today. Dan Noonan has tirelessly promoted and echoed "the many lessons learned" from the department's most challenging disasters. He led other advocacy initiatives in the fire service, often relating the NY Tel Exchange Fire as one of the city's most dangerous fires. Unlike other fires before this, the results and investigative data about the 1975 NY Tel Fire was an overwhelmingly different type of disaster as far as its after-effects and the many layers of damage both to the city and to the responders, communication workers and the residents in the immediate area.
Thanks to the coordination of Hon. Chief Sergio Nieto (President of the Fire Bell Club) and Deputy Assistant Chief Frank Leeb, Chief of the Fire Academy, Dan Noonan's life-long mission to bring honor to those who risked everything to battle this historical fire and to give all the responders their proper homage. Originally scheduled for 2/27/2022, The Verizon building (formerly Bell Telephone) at 204 Second Avenue & Thirteenth Street in the East Village of NYC was finally going to receive the long-awaited memorial plaque about the 1975 NY Tel Fire. "In 47 years, it's time New York City gave proper honors to the 699 firefighters as a means of recognizing their sacrifices," states Hon. Chief Nieto. "The NY Tel Fire of 1975 was a first in so many ways, including a marker for fire safety protocols and a pivotal reference for cancer awareness."
In addition to this commemorative event sparked new initiatives for the Fire Academy. Scheduled for the spring, Chief Leeb will produce a comprehensive new training resource and interactive video presentation of lessons learned from the 1975 fire. An introduction will be Dan Noonan's overview for all generations of fire service members describing the many hazards that first responders can be exposed to from today's fires- and the possible aftermath on their health. As an historical and educational treasure to the fire service, Dan's crusade shall be forever memorialized in the very lesson plans for all cadets- all the way to the retirees.
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We continue to honor Dr. Deborah Wallace as the driving force for the educational movement about the many new hazards of "Modern Plastic Fires", especially the exposures to burning polyvinyl chloride (PVC)
Walt Whitman in 'Song of Myself ' Praised Firefighters:
“Lads ahold of fire-engines and hook-and-ladder ropes no less to me than the gods of the antique wars”.
By. Deborah Wallace, Ph.D.
The Telephone Exchange firefighters are icons of regulatory failure, a failure that turns our homes and workplaces into potential deathtraps and sources of permanent health impairment. The illnesses, injuries, and deaths of this cohort should not be forgotten. The cause of these illnesses, injuries, and deaths must be addressed with building codes and toxicity regulations. Negligence and corruption in code and regulation development made the New York Telephone Exchange Fire almost as much an act of terrorism as the attack on the World Trade Center.
The petrochemical industry will lose massive revenue because of climate change imperatives that limit fossil fuels. It plans to compensate by making more plastics and finding more ways of replacing traditional materials with them. If the industry succeeds in this change, the firefighting environment will present even more hazards to health and life. We must honor the New York Telephone Exchange firefighters by preventing this cynical gambit and by demanding protective building codes and toxics regulations.
- Chief Bobby Halton
Thanks in part to the NY Fire Bell Club and the cooperation from Verizon, sources say the 699 responders of the 1975 Fire are about to is receive the proper and due recognition for their sacrifice and service in the form of a memorial plaque to be installed at the former NY Tel Exchange building (204 Second Avenue and Thirteenth Street in the East Village, NYC) plus a street naming related to the fire. The unveiling is said to occur in early February, 2022.
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