The Urbana Fire Division is transitioning the county HAZMAT team, responsible for responding to potentially dangerous chemical spills, into a public/private partnership in which firefighters will isolate the scene of a spill and contact an independent contractor for cleanup. According to Urbana Fire Chief Dean Ortlieb, this will save thousands of dollars on costs of maintaining equipment and training personnel.
“We had to train people to HAZMAT technician level and they have to have physicals, we have to have equipment requirements, we have to try to monitor all of the people across the county to see if they have this training and that their physicals are being done, and we have to coordinate the training and deployment of these people,” Ortlieb said. “With us we were able to manage that, but when it came to the other departments they were able to manage it, but they were having a flow of people going through who were part time or volunteer, so it became very difficult to just maintain enough people to be at that highest level of training, along with the cost and the expense to go with it.”
The fire division currently has a Haz-Mat 1 truck, a 1930 International, that was donated to the division by a beverage company. It carries suits and equipment for chemical spills as well as breathing air to refill air packs at large fires. The rear of the truck features a Command Center used as a mobile office at large incidents.
Ortlieb plans to move this equipment into a mobile trailer that can be deployed anywhere in the county within 6-10 minutes of an incident report. The plan is to sell the original truck.
“We still will have every fire department in the county train their personnel up to what’s called operations, which means they’re able to deal with and identify what the hazard is,” Ortlieb said. “Once we’re able to do that and we’re hopefully even able to contain it and evacuate the area – to stop whatever’s being bad – then we can call in a private contractor to mitigate it and clean it up.”
Ortlieb said this plan was tested during a fuel spill on South Main Street in late 2018. A truck had dumped 170 gallons of diesel fuel on the roadway. The Fire Division called in a private contractor, which partnered with the Environmental Production Agency, Emergency Management Agency and Public Utilities Commission of Ohio to clean up the spill after a four- to five-hour ordeal. They billed the company responsible through EMA and received a reimbursement for their services. Ortlieb said the division will try to funnel all operations through EMA when possible.
In addition to hazardous material transported through the county via trucks, railroads or planes, all manufacturing companies are subject to Tier 2 monitoring and must report hazmat levels to authorities. Ortlieb said the fire division is aware of all hazards, how they could affect the community, and has plans to deal with any spill.