Orlando Fire Department Hazmat Response

The City of Orlando Fire Department has been providing fire and rescue service to citizens and visitors in Orlando since 1885. Organized firefighting in Orlando began in the early 1880s following a fire at a hat- and dress-making shop. William Sherman...


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Equipment carried on Hazmat 1 is typical for most hazardous materials response vehicles. Driver’s-side compartments are set up for entry equipment. A weather station and awning to protect personnel from the elements while dressing out are provided on the driver’s side. The rear compartment carries salvage drums and passenger-side compartments hold spill- and leak-control equipment. Offloading equipment and miscellaneous tools are also carried in the compartments. Spotting scopes are available for hazmat and bomb squad work. The optics are so powerful that a tripod is needed to hold the device still for optimum vision.

Hazmat 1 is quartered at Fire Station 1, located at 429 South Magnolia in downtown Orlando. Nicknamed the “Big House,†additional apparatus there includes Engine 1, Engine 101, Tower 1, Heavy Rescue 1, Rescue 1, Hazmat 1, District Chief 1, Division Chief 1, Dive Van and Boat 1 and the Foam Unit. Hazmat 1 is not a dedicated unit, as only two personnel are assigned to drive and maintain the unit on a daily basis. One of the firefighters must be an FBI-trained bomb technician. The Foam Unit carries 2,250 gallons of bulk foam in a tank and three additional 30-gallon containers along with multiple five-gallon containers of foam. Hazmat personnel staff the Foam Unit.

Hazmat responses in Orlando get a full structure assignment of two engines, a truck, a rescue and a district chief. When a hazmat call is dispatched, Engine 101 runs in tandem with the Hazmat 1 and Tower 1. The bomb squad usually responds automatically as well. An additional engine is dispatched for decontamination along with Rescue 1 as a rapid intervention team. If needed, the air cascade unit is dispatched from Station 2. Each additional tower ladder in the city is staffed with four hazmat technicians and responds on hazmat alarms as needed. Paramedics who are a part of the medical rescue assigned to the hazmat response are trained and equipped to administer antidotes, if required. Assorted antidotes are carried on medical rescue units.

All engine companies in the city are trained to provide decontamination for the hazmat team. Hazmat technicians receive 160 hours of in-house training. Some hazmat personnel have also attended classes at the Center for Domestic Preparedness in Anniston, AL, for terrorism training, Dugway Proving Grounds in Utah, New Mexico Tech EMRTC for Explosives Training and the Nevada Test Site for radiation-response training. All personnel in the department receive three-day operations-level training and weapons of mass destruction (WMD) training during their initial fire department training class. Assistance at hazmat incidents is available from the Orange County and Seminole County hazmat teams.

Monitoring and detection instruments used by the hazmat team include PHD four-gas, Multi-RAE, Mini-RAE, MSA, APD 2000, Ludlum, Travel IR, AHURA, Protein Test and Amino Assay. Personal protective equipment (PPE) for Level A incidents is DuPont Trellborg HPS and Level B PPE is primarily DuPont Saranex-coated Tyvec. Respiratory protection is provided by Scott self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA) with 60-minute bottles for hazmat incidents. Communication within suits is accomplished with Scott facepiece microphones that hook to 800-MHz radios. Reference materials used by the team include computers that are internet capable and fax capable, CAMEO, CATS, Chem Watch, Sacks, Condensed Chemical Dictionary, Railroad Bureau of Explosives Book, GATX Manual, PPE selection book and GENIUMS.

Transportation hazmat exposures in and around Orlando include Interstate 4, State Route 528, Regional Route 408, the Florida Turnpike and the CSX Railroad. Taft Pipeline Company has storage tanks at Orlando International Airport. Several high-tech facilities that support the NASA space program are located in the city as well. Light-industrial areas are to the north and northwest. Chemicals most often encountered are petroleum products, organic peroxides, super acids, super bases, chlorine, propane, arsine and fluorides.

For additional information or questions about the Orlando Fire Department Hazmat Team or Bomb Squad, contact District Chief of Special Operations Armando Bevelacqua at Armando.Bevelacqua@cityoforlando.net.


Robert Burke, a Firehouse® contributing editor, is the fire marshal for the University of Maryland. 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 at robert.burke@att.net.