Haz-Mat Drill in Walnut Ridge

By Keith Boles - bio | email feedback

WALNUT RIDGE, AR (KAIT) -The Walnut Ridge airport with its long runway and distance from town could make a good landing location for an aircraft in trouble.

But what if it's carrying hazardous material?

Are the fire departments in the area prepared?

Steve Jones the Lawrence County OEM Coordinator and drill coordinator set the stage. "We decided to have a scenario where a C-130 comes into the Walnut Ridge Airport with a compartment fire."

Okay, that's a scary start, but where does the hazardous materials part fit in?

Jones continued, "But then they have some casualties on board because we have a hazardous material that's leaking inside it."

Minutes after the call went out help started rolling in.

Fire trucks and HAZ-MAT teams from Walnut Ridge, Haz Mat units from Pocahontas, Imboden and Paragould and Greene County Rescue . Ambulances and the command trailer from the Lawrence County Sheriffs office all were on scene and setting up.

"We had good cooperation today, a lot of the area fire departments were out and participated and I was really glad to see that."

Walnut Ridge Mayor Michelle Rogers watched as fire fighters set up decontamination stations and suited up to go and retrieve the injured and dead from the aircraft.

As temperatures rose it made it tough to wear the suits. Visibility is poor at best besides the fact that you have to carry stretchers or just move around in the air craft.

Now for the hazardous material.  To determine what kind of compound was actually on the aircraft. Members of the 61st Civil Support team were flown in from Camp Robinson.

This 22 member team made up of full time Army and Air National Guard personnel serves as a back up for local fire departments.

Team commander Lt.Col Stan Evans said their function on Tuesday;

"Was to work with those first responders in dealing with those agents and how do you get in there and mitigate, monitor and assess that situation."

The team used a treated paper to detect a chemical agent as well as more sophisticated technology.

Evans, "The photo ionization detector and we also used an infrared technology.So we sorta did a combination on them today."

With the exercise a wrap, I asked Mayor Rogers and Steve Jones the coordinator, if the exercise had met its goals.

Rogers, "It's good experience for them and to get together and meet some of the other departments and see how they work. I think it's a positive thing."

Jones, "You know everybody together working together, I think we accomplished that today."

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