Reasons to integrate structural firefighting, hazmat units

By John McCreedie

For Fire Chief

The plating shop where chemicals were used to turn unfinished metals into a smooth and finished product was engulfed by flames as a Boulder County, Colo., fire truck arrived on-scene. Responders immediately took a defensive position. They extinguished the fire from outside positions to keep it contained and protect firefighters from billowing smoke potentially loaded with unknown chemicals.

The hazmat team arrived and determined the presence of hydrochloric acid, a highly corrosive solution that could cause dermal burns and damage firefighter gear. A standard decontamination zone was set up after a test-strip swipe of bunker gear revealed an acidic PH factor of 3, indicating that, despite their best efforts to stay back from the fire and its corrosive smoke, responders had been exposed.

“Decon can set the tone for the rest of the scene,” said t Lt. Mike Becker, an 18-year fire service veteran who coordinates hazmat response for the Longmont (Colo.) Fire Department. “If you don’t have things properly in place, you can drag contaminates all over God’s green earth. It’s critical to recognize upfront all the key issues and indicators; it’s important to have decon in place early on.”

Read the full article here.