Victim of Toxic Fumes : Evacuees Spared ‘Needless Discomfort’

Times Staff Writer

The one person hospitalized as a result of the Anaheim chemical fire said Tuesday that the thousands of residents evacuated from the area at the very least “saved themselves some needless discomfort,” despite the inconvenience of leaving their homes.

Orange County Transit District Supervisor Ted Grandke, 52, who was released from UCI Medical Center Monday, said that had the residents remained in their homes, they “might have gotten hurt worse than I was.”

Grandke said he went to work as scheduled on Sunday morning at the District 6 yard, across the street from the Larry Fricker Co. plant, unaware of the fire. As soon as he arrived, he joined OCTD employees who were already working to remove buses from the yard and reorganize operations.

“I saw a little bit of cloud” in the area of the plant, he said. “Not a big rain cloud or anything.”


Grandke said he couldn’t recall when he first noticed the effects of the fumes.

“You don’t really smell anything,” he said. “After a while you taste something. It’s not like going into a fire and smelling smoke. I just noticed that my chest was burning, and my throat was burning and my voice was going.”

At 2 a.m. Monday, after about 16 hours of work at the yard, a superior suggested that Grandke stop by the emergency room at UCIMC on his way home. After being examined, he was admitted to the hospital for extensive testing and placed on intravenous medication.

Grandke said that doctors did not inform him of exactly what caused his symptoms. Health and fire officials are still not certain which chemicals stored in the plant combined to produce the toxic fumes. Eighteen other people, including four firefighters, were treated briefly for breathing ailments and contact with the chemicals and later released without being admitted to the hospital.


“I really wasn’t aware of how serious these things could be,” Grandke said after his return home. “I had red eyes, but I didn’t have burning eyes. In my case it just went into the respiratory system.”

Now, Grandke said, “I feel fine. I feel a little tight in the chest.”

Grandke had nothing but praise for fellow OCTD workers, who he said “were just fantastic.” As for his own role, he said, “I find the whole thing very embarrassing. I didn’t do anything heroic.”