Hazmat Response in Baltimore County

The Baltimore County, MD, Fire Department provides fire, EMS and rescue services to over 800,000 people in a 610-square-mile area surrounding the City of Baltimore on three sides. The county extends from the Chesapeake Bay in the southeast to the...


The Baltimore County, MD, Fire Department provides fire, EMS and rescue services to over 800,000 people in a 610-square-mile area surrounding the City of Baltimore on three sides. The county extends from the Chesapeake Bay in the southeast to the Pennsylvania border in the north. Coverage...


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The Baltimore County, MD, Fire Department provides fire, EMS and rescue services to over 800,000 people in a 610-square-mile area surrounding the City of Baltimore on three sides. The county extends from the Chesapeake Bay in the southeast to the Pennsylvania border in the north. Coverage areas include rural in the north to small towns, suburban neighborhoods and heavy industry through the remainder of the county.

The Baltimore County Fire Department was formed in June 1881 with seven stations housing various-sized chemical engines. Prior to that time, Baltimore County relied on Baltimore City for fire protection. Firefighters were paid and most of the companies were eventually annexed into Baltimore City. Several paid companies remained in Baltimore County and others were created in the late 1800s. In the early 1900s, volunteer companies sprang up through necessity in unprotected areas of the county. Those companies experienced continued growth and were eventually financially supported by Baltimore County. Baltimore County firefighters responded to assist Baltimore City during the Great Baltimore Fire of 1904.

The modern-day Baltimore County Fire Department is a combination career/volunteer department under the command of Chief John J. Hohman. Over 1,000 career personnel operate out of 25 stations and 2,000 volunteers provide service from an additional 33 stations. Firefighters in Baltimore County respond to in excess of 114,000 incidents each year, of which EMS calls make up over 70%. Baltimore County firefighters operate 88 engine companies, 13 truck companies, three tower ladders, nine heavy rescue squads, an urban search and rescue (USAR) vehicle, a hazmat unit with two satellite vehicles, a decontamination unit, six large-capacity tankers for rural operations, various brush and squad units, and 45 advanced life support (ALS) medic units. Specialized units include advanced tactical rescue, swiftwater, dive rescue and marine emergency teams. Baltimore County also has a year-round fully staffed training academy under the direction of Division Chief Michael Robinson.

Baltimore County created its hazardous materials unit in 1981 under the direction of then-Battalion Chief Edward Crooks. Its first apparatus was a 1965 Seagrave, the department's old Engine 41. Presently, the hazmat team is housed at Brooklandville Station 14, at 10017 Falls Road. The hazmat unit, Hazmat 114, is a 1989 Saulsbury supported by a 2002 Freightliner foam unit. Foam 14 carries 250 gallons of water, 750 gallons of alcohol-resistant (AR) foam concentrate and protein foam. Because of the common practice of blending alcohol with gasoline in various concentrations, AR foam is used for all flammable-liquid fires. The proportion of foam is adjusted for the type of fuel burning. Crash trucks from Baltimore Washington Airport and Martin State Airport are available for mutual aid, but they do not carry AR foam. A new hazardous materials unit is in the planning stages as of this writing.

Two satellite (support) units are at Stations 13 and 15 and use Chevrolets (plumber's body-style trucks). Station 13 is at 6300 Johnnycake Road and Station 15 is at 1056 Old North Point Road. The satellite units carry monitoring and metering equipment, absorbent materials, Level B chemical suits, extra supplies and manpower to assist the hazmat team when needed. Neither the hazmat team nor the support units are dedicated. A driver is assigned to Station 14 to place the hazmat unit in service. Personnel from Engine 14 provide manpower for the hazmat unit and respond with the hazmat vehicle and engine when necessary. Medic 14 personnel are also cross trained as hazmat technicians and respond on hazmat calls as needed. Personnel from Engine 13 and Truck 13 place one of the units out of service to provide personnel for Support 13. Personnel from Station 15 place Truck 15 or Engine 15 out of service to place Support 15 in service.

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