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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Civil defense sirens sounded through the city, highways into Baltimore were closed along with boat traffic in the Inner Harbor. Public Works Department representatives indicated that this was the first time the sirens had been used other than during drills or tests. Shelter-in-place orders were issued for downtown buildings. Traffic was gridlocked on city streets, people waited for buses that could not get to them, light-rail service was restricted because of the proximity to the incident scene and the Metro subway was closed for a time to make sure smoke had not entered the tubes. The second game of an Orioles double-header was canceled, downtown stores were closed and night classes at the University of Baltimore were canceled. Five alarms of fire equipment and approximately 125 firefighters responded to the incident, which lasted until July 23.

Firefighters and hazmat personnel had a difficult time getting to the site of the derailment because of the leaking chemicals, the thick black smoke and the fact that the derailment occurred about three-quarters of a mile into the tunnel. The situation was further complicated when a 40-inch water main broke in Howard Street above the fire. Twenty-two people were injured, including two firefighters who experienced chest pains. Ironically, it was scheduled to be Firefighter Appreciation Day 2001 at Oriole Park at Camden Yards, a few hundred feet from the opening to the tunnel.

For additional information, contact Acting Lieutenant James E. ("Slim") Stanley at 443-984-1738 or james.stanley@BC.gov (James told be that when calling him, ask for "Slim" or you may be told there is no James Stanley there!)

ROBERT BURKE, a Firehouse® contributing editor, is the fire marshal for the University of Maryland Baltimore. He is a Certified Fire Protection Specialist (CFSP), Fire Inspector II, Fire Inspector III, Fire Investigator and Hazardous Materials Specialist, and has served on state and county hazardous materials response teams. Burke is an adjunct instructor at the National Fire Academy and the Community College of Baltimore, Catonsville Campus, and the author of the textbooks Hazardous Materials Chemistry for Emergency Responders and Counter-Terrorism for Emergency Responders. He can be contacted at robert.burke@att.net.