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Hundreds Of Fish Dead After Firefighter Foam Reaches Codornices Creek

BERKELEY (KPIX 5) -- The City of Berkeley and the State of California are investigating after a garbage truck fire lead to the death of hundreds of fish.

"Yeah, this is a fish kill. Hundreds of fish dead in Codornices Creek," said Ben Eichenberg, a staff attorney with SF Baykeeper. "I counted 40 between 6th & 8th streets."

The hundreds of dead fish are the aftermath of Berkeley garbage truck fire on Wednesday. The Fire Department told KPIX their primary concern during that fire was two natural gas cylinders on the top of the fire truck.

That's a new feature on the trucks, and firefighters were afraid they might explode in a neighborhood of homes. So, the foam was used to protect those cylinders. The problem is that all of that foam eventually reached Codornices Creek.

Neighbors weren't the only ones counting the dead fish on Thursday. Several employees from the City of Berkeley were poking around and one officer from the California Department of Fish and Game was surveying the length of the creek. He had collected a bag full of dead trout.

The foam that was used, Class A foam, works by cutting off a fire's oxygen supply. When it reaches water, it will do the same thing to the fish's oxygen. Eichenberg says he understands the circumstances, but wishes more could have been done.

"We have a lot of respect for what firefighters do. They're protecting all of us, no doubt about it," explained Eichenberg.

"Maybe in the heat of the moment, as it were, they were worried about the garbage truck blowing up. Maybe you don't have time to put storm drain blocks in right away. But, it had to flow all the way down the hill. I've seen pictures of big wash of foam down the hill. Maybe they had time afterwards to do something, but it doesn't look like that was done."

A battalion chief with the Berkeley Fire Department told KPIX that the decision to deploy the foam was a life safety decision and that was not an opportunity to address the runoff concerns until the fire was extinguished. He also said there is no protocol for containing the foam when deployed in an emergency situation.

Booms were placed in the creek afterwards, but by then the foam had already resulted in the spill.

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