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Warren County firefighters train on HAZMAT dangers

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About 20 Warren County firefighters attended classes this week to train on the risks associated with responding to a fire or accident that involves dangerous chemicals.

The training took place in the Culkin Fire Station on Culkin Road on Monday and Thursday nights. Senior firefighters already trained in the risks presented a program that touched on the best ways to respond to a call with a potentially hazardous risk.

One of the main concerns is rushing into an area where a toxic cloud of chemicals is present while trying to extinguish a fire. To drive home the risk, trainers showed a video of a law enforcement officer arriving on the scene of what was described as a two-vehicle accident. The officer’s dashcam captures the scene as he drives down a gravel-covered country road and pulls up to the accident.

One person is on the ground, a truck is partially on the roadway and smoke is coming from the trailer behind the truck. The officer gets out of his vehicle, grabs a medical kit and runs to assist the injured person on the ground. As the officer runs through the smokey scene, he coughs. The officer bends down to assist the injured person, and he coughs again, very hard.

He knows at this point something is wrong.

He attempts to get back to his vehicle but only makes it a couple of steps before he falls to the ground. His microphone captures his last breaths and the sound of sirens in the distance. He does not survive.

It wasn’t smoke coming from the trailer behind the truck, it was a hazardous chemical that choked the driver and the officer. When firefighters pulled up on the scene just a few seconds later, they put on their SCBA (Self Contained Breathing Apparatus) prior to approaching the two bodies on the roadway.

That stark video with its one camera shot from the patrol car and the microphone catching the last breath of the officer is an image burned into the minds of the firefighters training at Culkin Road this week.

It is a potential danger they face on every call.

Just a week ago, county firefighters responded to a structure fire where spray-in insulation was burning, creating a pitch-black smoke. Not only was the smoke suffocating, it killed any visibility. Firefighters standing right next to each other could not see each other. Toxic smoke that kills visibility in a burning structure is some of what these firefighters are learning to understand and survive.

A home that was struck by lightning that ignited the spray-in insulation creating thick black smoke.

Part of the training included explaining the ways to assess the dangers when firefighters pull up on a fire scene. They learned about the special gear available to them if they determine it is a HAZMAT situation, and Wendell Blair was chosen to don the HAZMAT outerwear. The gear protects firefighters from hazardous fumes, substances or items. Blair put on the second most protective suit that includes his SCBA on the outside of the suit.

Wendell Blair in a HAZMAT suit designed to keep him safe from some hazards.

When Blair is not saving lives and putting his life on the line for the residents of Warren County, his day job is fixing cars at Warfield’s Automotive on Clay Street.

Wendell Blair at his day job, Warfield’s Automotive on Clay.

Warren County firefighters train on a regular basis to keep up to date on the newest techniques. Their next training class will be this week as they prepare for the Fire Academy on Feb. 28.

If you would like to know more about how to become a firefighter for Warren County, contact Warren County Fire Coordinator/Fire Boss Gerald Briggs at 601-631-8806.

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