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Thursday, July 19, 2012

HAZardous MATerials Response

The tones woke me from a deep slumber. We were being toned out for a HAZMAT response with engine 59 in their district. Before we made it out of the barn the radio crackled. It was engine 59 saying that they could handle the initial response without us. The location of the call was a large bakery. I know that most of you probably just pictured a bakery where you might buy a specialty cake. But I want you to think of that bakery being the size of a Costco. We go there from time to time and it's usually a false alarm.

So with sleepy eyes and grateful hearts we dismounted and padded back up to our dorms. I was unconscious as soon as my head hit my pillow. zzzzzzzzz.......

The tones woke me up again. At least this time it wasn't from a deep sleep. We were being dispatched, along with engine 57, engine 60, our HAZMAT team and our BC to assist engine 59 with an ammonia leak. An ambulance was also dispatched for 2 patients with exposure issues.

We were second on scene but engine 59 had done everything. The building had been evacuated and isolated and the 2 patients were being treated. We just had to wait for the cavalry to arrive.

HAZMAT calls are not like most things we respond to. The pace is much slower and more methodical. Understandably so since the materials we might be dealing with have some very serious hazards. One of the things we have to consider with gases is the direction of the wind and what is downwind.

Once everyone was on scene a plan was formulated. Two members of the team would make entry into the area and test for ammonia levels and shut off the valves. When they came out and said that the levels were lethally high. They were able to shut off the valve and were simply letting the room air out through an outside door.

During this time the media showed up. While the BC prepared for his live interview for the morning news it was decided that we should put up some caution tape. That way things would look more official and controlled on the news.

Firefighters usually don't like to be on TV. Fortunately we were able to confirm that the room was clear and pick up everything before the news crew were ready to film.

Back at the station we watched as our incident made top headlines. They had film footage from earlier of our rigs and the ambulance and would cut back and forth from that to our BC being interviewed. When all was said and done it was a good call. Both patients were treated and released. The leak was mitigated and no one was injured.
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