Hazmat Response In Baltimore City

It isn't often that I get the opportunity to write about an organization that I have the pleasure to work with on a regular basis as fire marshal and hazmat team member at the University of Maryland Baltimore. Baltimore City Hazmat Team personnel and...


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The Baltimore City Fire Department's Hazardous Materials Team was formed in 1985 under the direction of now-retired Battalion Chief C.B. "Buzz" Melton as a result of newly passed federal legislation requiring specialized operations and training for hazardous materials response. Brooklyn Station 35/Truck 21 was the original home of the hazmat unit. It was relocated to the downtown "Super House," Steadman Station in 2001 with Battalion Chief 6. Also at Steadman are Engine 23, Truck 2, Rescue 1, the Technical Decontamination Unit, dive rescue unit, the collapse unit, Airflex 1, EMS 2 and Medic 1. Approximately 350 trained hazmat technicians work four shifts. The hazmat team is not dedicated and has one driver assigned to the unit per shift. Acting Lieutenant James E. ("Slim") Stanley is the Hazardous Materials Team coordinator. All personnel at Steadman Station are hazardous materials technicians and Engine 23, Truck 2 and Rescue 1 respond with Hazmat 1 as needed depending on the type of alarm received. Personnel at Engine 35, Truck 21 and the four squads are also hazmat technicians and available to assist with hazmat calls.

Hazmat 1 responds to an average of 400 hazmat incidents each year. Squads, truck companies and other first-due engines respond to an average of 2,500 incidents each year involving fuel spills, gas leaks, odor investigations and carbon monoxide alarms. Absorbent materials are carried on all apparatus and first-due companies can handle fuel spills up to 50 gallons, but have the option to call in Hazmat 1 anytime they need additional resources. If a spill enters the sewer system, Hazmat 1 is called automatically. Truck companies and squads carry five-gas meters and photo ionization detectors (PIDs). All companies carry radiation meters and all firefighters are trained to a minimum of the operations level.

Anne Arundel County and Baltimore County fire departments work with Baltimore City on a regular basis. The South Baltimore Industrial Mutual Aid Plan (SBIMAP) consists of 80 member organizations, 60% private and 40% public, dedicated to assisting one another during emergencies. The organization received a Partnership award from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in 1998 for its innovative emergency program.

Hazmat 1 is a 2006 Seagrave rescue body with an interior walk-through compartment area and command center. The Technical Decontamination Unit is a 2005 Pierce. Hazmat team members are equipped with Draeger self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA) with one-hour bottles, along with Draeger powered air-purifying respirators (PAPRs) and cartridge respirators for respiratory protection. Personal protective equipment (PPE) for body protection is provided with Kapler and DuPont suits for Level A entry and Kapler encapsulated and un-encapsulated suits for Level B entry. Motorola radios with earpieces and mikes built into the SCBA facepieces are used for in-suit communications.

Hazmat personnel receive the Maryland Fire and Rescue Institute (MFRI) 56-hour hazmat technician course and a 40-hour weapons of mass destruction (WMD) course. Some are sent for additional training at the TTCI Emergency Response Training Center in Pueblo, CO, Radiation School at the Nevada Test Site near Las Vegas, WMD training at the Center for Domestic Preparedness in Anniston, AL, and incident command courses at the National Fire Academy in Emmitsburg, MD.

Highway transportation routes in the area where hazardous materials are shipped on a regular basis include Interstates 70, 83, 95, 97, 395, 695 and 795. Baltimore is situated on the Patapsco River, a tributary of Chesapeake Bay. Hazardous materials in intermodal containers are shipped to and from the city through the Port of Baltimore. Colonial Pipeline Co. has a pipeline system that terminates in the Curtis Bay area in the southeast side of the city where there is a major concentration of petroleum and chemical facilities. Some of the chemicals found in the industrial areas include uranium-hexafluoride, anhydrous ammonia, chlorine, petroleum products and ethanol produced in the city. Rail lines include those used by CSX and Norfolk Southern.

The CSX line, which runs below Howard Street, was the site of a major hazmat spill and fire on July 18, 2001, when the fire department and hazmat team faced one of their most challenging hazmat/fire incidents. At 3:08 P.M., 11 cars of a 60-car CSX train derailed in the 1.7-mile Howard Street Tunnel. Four of eight tank cars that contained hazardous materials derailed. The derailed tank cars contained tripropylene, a flammable liquid, hydrochloric acid and di (2-ethylhexyl) phthalate, a plasticizer and environmentally hazardous substance. The leaking tripropylene caught fire and burned along with other combustible cargo in other railcars.