Springfield Fire and Rescue Division fire fighter (right) Scott Rupp helps fire fighter Chad McKee get into his hazmat suit. JEFF GUERINI/STAFF
Photo: Jeff Guerini
Photo: Jeff Guerini

Springfield firefighters, others practice HAZMAT skills

Local and state authorities practiced how to handle a hazardous materials situation in Clark County on Wednesday to keep up to date on training and tools.

The HAZMAT exercise is held at least once a year. This year’s training was a simulated drug lab, said Rodney Rahrle, assistant fire chief with the Springfield Fire/Rescue Division and a Clark County HAZMAT coordinator.

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He described the scenario they practiced as one with different levels.

“Police pull someone over and that person died a short time later. Police went to their house found this lab. We are going to make entry and do some recon and find out what it is. That person has been transported to the hospital. Firefighters will first be going in with firefighter suits and will later determine if they need to go in with Level A suit,” Rahrle said.

Firefighters aren’t sure what’s in the simulated lab, the assistant chief said.

“A HAZMAT situation is not like a fire where you go in and knock it out real quick and move on. HAZMAT is slow and methodical,” Rahrle said. “You cross your T’s and dot your I’s.”

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The 52nd Civil Support Team also participated. There are 54 other teams like it in the country. This team’s specialty is weapons of mass destruction and it covers the entire state of Ohio.

“In a real-life situation, we would call people in off-duty and we would have a bit of rotation with the civil support team,” Rahrle said. “They brought 18 members so we have sufficient manpower.”

The support team is there to assist the incident commander and doesn’t take over operations, said Maj. Tonia McCurdy of the 52nd Civil Support Team. They are usually called to the scene when fire divisions cannot identify what’s there.

“When we go down, we will go down in full level-A suits, full protection. So, in case there is a hazard, everyone is safe,” McCurdy said.

The team has decontamination and surveillance units, a survey team and a nuclear scientist.

“We have a nuclear scientist … based on the contaminants that we see. We can make presumptive identifications, try to identify what it is,” McCurdy said.

Both officials say this training is needed to keep the community safe.

“Just to keep our skills and get our hands on the equipment. Keep the relationships going between the organizations so we all know what to expect when something like this happens for real,” Rahrle said.

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