20 Aug 2014
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City Quashes Chop Shop Rumor

After residents’ concern over collection of damaged cars near sewer plant goes viral, city officials clarify that the vehicles were part of a brief fire department training exercise.

City Quashes Chop Shop Rumor City Quashes Chop Shop Rumor

Mill Valley City Hall got a taste of going viral Monday.

After spotting a collection of badly damaged cars near the (SASM) treatment plant along the Mill Valley-Sausalito Bike Path, residents sent emails to city officials, city staff and dozens of local residents alleging that the city or sewer plant employees were operating a chop shop or an illegal dumping ground.

Those emails were quickly forwarded around, with residents expressing shock and dismay that city officials or employees could in some way be involved in a profit-making venture of taking apart badly damaged vehicles and selling them off for parts. Mill Valley Patch alone received 10 of those forwarded emails.

It didn’t take long for city officials to discredit the Internet mini-meme.

In fact, the cars were being used by the for a training exercise centering on extricating a driver or passenger from a badly damaged vehicle in the event of a car accident, according to City Manager Jim McCann.

Fire Chief Jeff Davidson said the department obtains a handful of badly damaged vehicles destined for salvage yards once or twice a year from local wrecking companies for free. They do so to simulate the real conditions firefighters and paramedics would find in the event of a major car crash and allows them to operate hydraulic lifts and the jaws of life to be better prepared for such incidents, Davidson said.

Those exercises have occurred behind the main fire station and elsewhere in southern Marin, with salvage companies delivering the cars and retrieving them once the training is finished, Davidson said.  

“No dismantling of engine components or opening of elements with any liquid is involved to avoid any liquids discharged to the ground,” McCann said.

The recent training exercise near the sewage plant is finished and all of the cars have been removed, city officials said. McCann said he would review the training program to make sure “that the appropriate controls are in place” and to “determine if this is the most suitable site for this work.”

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