Leaders of a firefighters union yesterday canceled a meeting for members to vote on a proposed contract with the city, saying they feared disruption by striking police officers.

A portion of the department approved the contract by one vote Thursday night and another meeting was scheduled Friday for those who had been on duty during the first vote.

Five hours before the meeting, union President Clarence Perez, canceled it and voided the results of the Thursday balloting, inwhich the contract was only barely approved -- 226 to 225.

"We had information that there was going to be outside influences present outside the meeting hall with the intention of disrupting the meeting," said Perez.

Perez said union members would be asked to vote by mail ballot.

The police strike, which disrupted Mardi Gras, entered its third week yesterday, but city officials claimed "a dramatic increase" in the number of police strikers returning to work. erset is the first major power plant in New England and the largest in the nation to voluntarily convert from oil to coal, officials said.

The Environmental Protection Agency said that the conversion will reduce the region's dependence on imported oil for electricity by as much as 17 percent.

Allowing coal to be burned means changing the EPA's clean air plan for Massachusetts. However, EPA regional Administrator William R. Adams Jr. said that this does not mean more pollution. The coal will have a sulfur content of 1.5 percent -- the same as the residual oil now being burned.