JS-Kit/Echo comments for article at http://smallestminority.blogspot.com/2008/08/theater-major.html (16 comments)

  Tentative mapping of comments to original article, corrections solicited.

jsid-1219193033-595697  NMM1AFan at Wed, 20 Aug 2008 00:43:53 +0000

If you read most fire dept. safety publications, we can't be even trusted with matches.

I remember having to pay $5 for a permit as a kid for model rocket motors, and got talked down to by the firefighter.


jsid-1219194951-595698  DJ at Wed, 20 Aug 2008 01:15:51 +0000

But, but, aren't the people in gubmint RIGHT, simply because they're in the gubmint? Isn't that how it works?

jsid-1219197106-595699  DJMoore at Wed, 20 Aug 2008 01:51:46 +0000


That involved 43,000 kilograms of methyl isocyanate, an extremely toxic material with a exposure limit of 0.02 ppm.

That Ms. Wilderman claimed it remotely possible that Deeb's lab could have caused a Bhopal-scale disaster is proof positive of hysterical ignorance asserting authority.

The armed robbery of Mr. Deeb's scientific records ought to damned well be grounds not only for a civil suit, but criminal charges as well.

jsid-1219238477-595710  ParatrooperJJ at Wed, 20 Aug 2008 13:21:17 +0000

Yes the Bohpal comparison was rather stupid.
As a matter of law in most states, once the FD is called to a scene they then own that scene until they choose to release it. As long as a firefighter is present, they can grant entry to anyone they choose including police. No warrant is necessary.

jsid-1219239931-595712  DJ at Wed, 20 Aug 2008 13:45:31 +0000

"... once the FD is called ...

Once the FD is called by whom?

... to a scene they then own that scene until they choose to release it.

"Own" you say? By what "due process of law" do they become "owners"?

No warrant is necessary."

Under what Constitution?

Amendment Four states:

"The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized."

So, such a search is not "unreasonable" as long as someone, somewhere, says so, and whoever does the search can seize anything without a warrant?

In fairness, ParatrooperJJ, are you defending such "laws" or only explaining that they exist?

jsid-1219249046-595717  GrumpyOldFart at Wed, 20 Aug 2008 16:17:26 +0000

When it comes right down to it, you can't accurately judge what possible danger was presented to the firefighters, or the neighborhood, without getting a complete inventory of what was in the basement.
I was also "a theatre major with no scientific training", but I nonetheless remember what I was taught in Damage Control training in the Navy. Among such things were the surprises of how coffee creamer or copier toner spilled into open air will go off like flash powder in the presence of an open flame.
Yes, Mr. Deeb is quite correct when he asserts that ordinary household chemicals found in most homes are just as hazardous as the things hazmat teams freak out over. But one must also take into account the purity, amounts and storage methods used when assessing the risks. Rubbing alcohol is up to 20% soap and water, making it quite a bit less hazardous than technical grade isopropyl alcohol. Not to mention the difference in hazard from an 8 oz plastic bottle of the one and a 5 gallon can of the other. The same goes for the difference between a small bottle of nail polish remover and a large container of acetone.
As NMM1AFan points out, under most fire dept. regulations civilians can't even be trusted with matches. True enough, and it does seem silly on the face of it. But if you've ever been nearby when a pipe bomb made from match heads has gone off, I won't be surprised if your opinion of the danger represented by matches is a little different. And while a bottle of fingernail polish remover is a "normal, everyday" hazard firemen deal with as a matter of course, I have little doubt that a 55 gallon drum of acetone inside a house on fire is a bomb that could sweep the ground clean for 50-100 feet in all directions.
Please understand, I'm not defending the Fire Dept. or belittling Mr. Deeb. I'm just saying that without an assessment of amounts, purity and storage conditions, rather than the mere presence of ____________, we simply cannot have any real idea of the potential danger represented. That, and I can't help sympathizing with the guy responsible for the lives of firefighters on the 2nd floor being overly cautious if he suddenly finds himself wondering whether something in the basement is about to launch his team a thousand feet into the air.

At this point, I think Kevin nailed the one truly major screwup on the part of the Fire Dept.: "I'm not a chemist, but it sounds like nobody there but Mr. Deeb was, and no one bothered to ask him squat." I don't blame firemen for being overly cautious in the face of "We don't know what's down there", but apparently they had an expert on tap to TELL them what was down there and what it could be expected to do, and they didn't think to ask him. Then again, how do you know whose opinion you can trust when seconds count and lives are at stake?

jsid-1219252569-595719  Yosemite Sam at Wed, 20 Aug 2008 17:16:09 +0000

It seems to me that the object of this story is to never call the fire or police department to your home under any circumstances. The stuff in a house is insured, my liberty and freedom isn't.

Also, don't live in Massachusetts.

jsid-1219256567-595720  NMM1AFan at Wed, 20 Aug 2008 18:22:47 +0000

Match head bombs were old news and known to be a stupid idea when my father was a kid.

What about the 150 gallon tank of home heating oil in most Mass. homes?

What if Mr. Deeb had a basement full of reloading supplies? He'd be a crazy militia guy instead of mad scientist guy, that's all.


jsid-1219264640-595724  Sebastian at Wed, 20 Aug 2008 20:37:20 +0000

Firefighters and Police are permitted to enter a property without a warrant if their activity falls under the "Emergency Aid Doctrine" in Fourth Amendment law. However, that ends once the emergency has abated. Based on the circumstances here, I would argue that they needed a warrant to seize his lab equipment and supplies. Certainly the notes. But it's a legal grey area. I would imagine the state would argue that the "emergency" constituted possession of dangerous and hazardous chemicals, and that the authorities were protecting the life and limb under the emergency aid doctrine.

jsid-1219288839-595734  Engineer-Poet at Thu, 21 Aug 2008 03:20:39 +0000

GOF, I don't suppose it would make any difference that the materials were in THE BASEMENT and the fire was on THE SECOND FLOOR?

Of all the ridiculous things, confiscating tire crumb has got to be one of the silliest.

jsid-1219293348-595740  Mike Gallo at Thu, 21 Aug 2008 04:35:48 +0000

For the record, Aldrich was started in the founder's garage near downtown Milwaukee in 1956. Sigma-Aldrich is currently the largest buyer and seller of chemicals in the world. You can put that one up there with your list, given how applicable it is to this situation.

Anyone who starts getting nervous at a few buckets laying around needs to go get their balls from their wife's purse and re-attach them. Anyone who doesn't can come work in the large-scale chemical production industry with me. Firefighters that see something that makes them nervous should get out and call someone more qualified. Or, I don't know, maybe ASK THE F-ING CHEMIST THAT LIVES THERE.

jsid-1219340196-595757  GrumpyOldFart at Thu, 21 Aug 2008 17:36:36 +0000

Engineer-Poet: How much difference it makes depends on the nature of the fire, and again we don't know. If it's a fire caused by a very out of date and poorly installed electrical system (like the one in the house where I currently reside), for all you or I know they may be perfectly justified in worrying about fire breaking out anywhere there's an outlet or a switch. Likewise, depending on the nature of the fire on the second floor, they may have had legitimate worries about burning bits of house falling downward. Again, we don't know.

Yes, confiscating tire crumb is ridiculous. How about confiscating an unidentified black powder? If you can't tell whether it's tire crumb, or copier toner, or gunpowder, or what, isn't it reasonable to hang on until you KNOW? Once again, we don't know the conditions that applied at the scene and at the time. Also keep in mind that a large container of *coffee creamer*, suddenly cut into by a firefighter's axe and thus putting a dust cloud into the room, can create a fuel-air mixture that flashes and blows the windows out of the room, along with anything or anyone standing near said windows.
I dunno, maybe I'm more sympathetic than some because I have personally seen a grain elevator leveled, and the ground swept clean for over 500 feet in all directions (including clean of things like trees and an old schoolbus), not to mention concrete shrapnel that broke windows over a mile away, caused by BITS OF OLD RICE HULLS.

Once again, please be aware that I am NOT defending the fire dept. or condemning Mr. Deebs, or vice versa. I'm saying we simply do not have enough information to call that shot *from here*.

I stand by my original statement that the primary screwup lay in the fire dept. not ASKING the homeowner what all the stuff was in the basement. Then they'd have KNOWN what danger they were, and *were not*, facing. The problem lay not in how they secured the scene, the problem lay in their not finding out whether or not they had legitimate reason before doing so.

jsid-1219353113-595767  theirritablearchitect at Thu, 21 Aug 2008 21:11:53 +0000

"coffee creamer, suddenly cut into by a firefighter's axe and thus putting a dust cloud into the room, can create a fuel-air mixture that flashes and blows the windows out of the room"

You'd be surprised by how many seemingly innocuous things can be turned into flash hazards, given the right circumstances.

jsid-1219359976-595773  Engineer-Poet at Thu, 21 Aug 2008 23:06:16 +0000

GOF, your reasoning could be used to justify the confiscation of all of the coffee creamer from a refrigerated locker after a grease fire in the kitchen across the hall.  It's patently absurd.

jsid-1219485574-595795  privateer at Sat, 23 Aug 2008 09:59:34 +0000

GOF, For argument sake, lets admit what you said is true.

But after the emergency has passed, why was the materiel turned over to HAZMAT/ FBI and not returned to RIGHTFUL owner?

jsid-1219504836-595799  GrumpyOldFart at Sat, 23 Aug 2008 15:20:36 +0000

No, it doesn't justify confiscation of anything, in and of itself. It justifies *securing the scene while it's still hot*, and that's all it justifies. For the third time, I am NOT saying the fire dept. handled this the right way. *While* firefighters are dealing with the situation, and *while* there is still uncertainty about whether fire can still break out spontaneously, they are justified in securing all sorts of things one wouldn't normally think of as dangerous, because common materials, especially in large amounts, can turn a building into an immense bomb with frightening quickness and ease. That's not paranoia and it's not being a puss, it's being cautious and not throwing away the lives of both the firefighters and the people living near the affected area. They aren't justified in confiscating a case of fingernail polish remover bought at Sam's club either, but they ARE justified in not giving it back UNTIL they know there are no hotspots in that case, that it is not suddenly going to go BOOM and turn the poor sap carrying it into what the military calls a "screaming alpha fire".

The point I've been trying to make is that *securing the scene* is not where they blew it. DURING A FIRE, they are justified in that. Where they blew it was in a) not finding out from the owner of those materials what he had, and b) restricting his access to his property ONCE THE FIRE WAS COLD.

Privateer: I don't know. That's screwed up, just as it was screwed up for them to never ask the homeowner what that stuff is in the basement, how it is stored, etc. He was the ONLY competent authority they had on tap, and they ignored him apparently.

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