Reports Look at Cancer Link to 1975 NY Telephone Company Fire

FDNY firefighters at NY Telephone Company Fire
Courtesy the Fire Department of New York

Reports in the New York Post and New York Daily News have examined the tragic legacy of the Fire Department of New York (FDNY) response to a 1975 fire at the New York Telephone Company in Manhattan.

Retired FDNY firefighter Danny Noonan, who suffers from leukemia, spoke with the Post about the number of cancer cases in firefighters who responded to the fire.

“Young healthy men all of a sudden were developing all of these crazy cancers,” Noonan said in the report. “We started sounding the alarm to the city and the department’s hierarchy. There was no response to our alarm that all these firefighters are getting cancer.”

The Daily News carried an Op-Ed by Perry Berry, a retired reporter for the paper who is the widow of late FDNY Firefighter Michael Berry, Engine 80. Berry noted that although no one died during the February 27, 1975 fire, the fallout from the firefighting operations were tremendous and overlooked. According to Perry, 699 FDNY members working at the fire were exposed to extraordinary amounts of burning polyvinyl chloride, hydrogen chloride, vinyl chloride monomer, and chlorinated dioxins.

According to the FDNY, firefighters responded at 12:25 a.m. on the day in question to the 11-story building on Second Avenue and 13th Street. The fire had began in a large cable vault located in the cellar that contained 488 telephone cables, with anywhere from 400 to 2,700 pairs of lines and covered in either lead or polyethylene. 


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