The City of Stockton acted on the morning of August 21, 2019, to close six local pallet yards. According to a statement from Richard Edwards, Stockton Fire Marshal, “the pallet operations pose a significant threat to public safety, due to the volume of wooden pallets and how the pallets are stored.”
Edwards explained that the City of Stockton requires pallet yards to store idle pallets within 150 feet of a water supply and develop a site plan that identifies pallet storage areas, all fire hydrant locations (on-street and on-property), and fire access roads. “The business owners ordered to stop operations today have received repeated education, information, instructions, inspections and violation notices, and all have failed to make corrections and submit plans to operate safely,” he said.
There are 15 pallet companies within Stockton. Six of them have failed to meet compliance requirements, according to information.
These businesses include:
AA Universal Pallets – 1621 Navy Dr.
California Pallets – 235 W. Scotts Ave.
Central Pallets – 1881 E. Market St.
G. Pallets – 1717 Sanguinetti Ln.
New Star Pallets – 2150 E. Fremont St.
Pallet Guy – 1030 N. Union St.
Since January of 2019, the City has assigned a Special Inspector in the Fire Prevention Bureau to specifically address pallet yards, working with partners in code enforcement to ensure consistency between inspections.
“The goal is initially to educate our businesses to what those codes are, how to interpret those codes and how to apply them correctly,” Edwards stated. “Beginning in June of this year, we also gave each pallet operator a formal letter stating what the requirements were for their operations.”
The letter specifically addressed items such as hydrants for fire suppression capabilities. All pallet yards are required to store their pallets within 150 feet of a fire hydrant within the city of Stockton. Additionally, all pallets need to be stored within 150 feet of an access road. “That’s an improved all-weather surface through either concrete or asphalt so that we can actually get our fire apparatus to those pallets when they’re burning,” he added. The letter instructed pallet companies to provide documentation back to the fire department within 30 days.
“After that 30 days, most of these businesses that were listed were unresponsive to our request to comply with the fire code and the Stockton municipal code,” Edwards continued. The non-compliant were ordered to stop all operations involving pallet intake, repair, manufacturing or recycling. The only activity they are allowed to perform is to remove existing pallets to reduce risk to neighboring businesses and the surrounding areas.
“Pallet businesses are a very unique operation in that their commodity, the pallets, turn over almost daily,” Edwards said. “As you can imagine inspecting only once a year, what we see today is going to be significantly different tomorrow. What we found was that because of that turnover of pallets, while sometimes they would be compliant, we would go out days later, and they wouldn’t be just because of the sheer volume of pallets that are there,” he continued, resulting in the enforcement action.
“I don’t own the property. I don’t have the fire hydrants,” said Mary Dela Rosa of New Star Pallets said to ABC10 in reaction to the closures. “So, today, I thought they would give me more lead time like, yeah they’ve been telling us what we need to do to be in compliance. But, all of a sudden with no notice today, it was immediately shut down.”
“They did give us some warnings, but we at least need more time,” Alexander Zavala also commented to ABC10. “We have so many people that’s working. We just need the time, little bit more to be able to keep operating so we can let our customers know, as well as our employees to find new jobs.”
For its part, Edwards maintained that the initial enforcement activity was about education. “We wanted to make sure everybody was educated about the code requirements for these businesses and give them ample time to make the necessary adjustments.” After almost 60 days after the June letter had been issued, however, he stated that the pallet companies had been unresponsive, and that is why the city took the latest action.