Occupy Philly’s warming station, as we reported almost a week ago, hoped to winterize Occupy camps across the country, but some city officials are looking to squash those plans.
The station’s innovator and chief champion, Fernando Salguero, assured us last week that the station’s propane tank and ethanol-burning heater were deemed up to code by a fire marshal, who inspected the structure Monday morning.
But Friday, a team of city officials and police officers headed by a different fire marshal said that the structure violated chapters three and 24 of the fire code, which dictate, respectively, that no heat sources are allowed near decorative materials and that no structure can be open to the public without the approval of a fire code official, Salguero said.
The visit seemed to be confirmed by a tweet written Friday by Mayor Michael Nutter’s press secretary, Mark McDonald: “Fire Marshal tells #Occupy Philly warming station that propane tanks and hurricane lamps violate fire code. Items are removed by owner.”
As McDonald said, Salguero willingly surrendered the items. Still, he said that, as his station has no decorations, its walls, insulation and carpet are fireproof and that a fire marshal gave him the thumbs-up before he opened the structure, he was not in the wrong.
“They are politically interpreting the fire code,” he said. “They want us out. They don’t want us to be able to stay the winter.”
The station is still usable, according to Salguero. “It’s built to work with body heat,” he said. “It’ll still be functional, just not in subzero temperatures.” He is working with Occupy Philly’s legal team to investigate his options as far as “protecting the right to maintain homeostasis … You can’t protect people’s rights if they are dying of hypothermia,” he said.
Despite the setback, Salguero remains optimistic about his idea. “If all the different committees had warming stations, there would be nothing holding us back.”