Pocahontas Fire Department: More federal funding after 9-1-1

By Josh Harvison - bio | email

POCAHONTAS, AR (KAIT) - Officials with the Pocahontas Fire Department told Region 8 News Friday it has received hundreds of thousands of dollars in federal grant money since September 11, 2001. According to Fire Chief Scott Baltz, the city received $400,000 to purchase a hazmat trailer and various other items.

"We have new pumpers. We have several new pumpers in the rescue truck. Three sets of rescue tools. We have AED's that we didn't have before on the rescue trucks and on the hazmat trailer," said Baltz.

Baltz said training and technology has drastically increased since the terrorist attacks of 9-11. The Homeland Security Department increased funding for local police and fire departments.

"When that happened, we've since had a regional decontamination unit that we assist Paragould, Walnut Ridge and Imboden with," said Baltz.

Randolph County has also increased technology in tracing cell phone signals. The county also has 5 different repeaters, which are communication towers.

"If something were to happen to the major 9-1-1 channel, it go down or tower fall, whatever, we could just flop over and have another. There are backups for backups," said Baltz. "The communication will be better. We have the AWIN radios now where we'll be able to talk directly to ADEM to get resources in up here."

Baltz said firefighters who participate in hazmat situations go through several hours of training. The last training exercise was held earlier this month at the Pocahontas Municipal Airport.

"With the hazmat scenes, the teams that actually do the work, they cannot go in unless there is a backup. Even the decontamination units, they don't actually go in the hot zone, but there is a backup for those individuals that are actually doing work," said Baltz.

Baltz said the only fault in funding through the federal government was the fact his department could only contain an area. Pocahontas does not have its own bomb squad, so it has to call in experts from Little Rock.

"We are mainly a decontamination unit. We do have 2 technicians on our department. We would like to have more and we will. We can handle major spills, gasoline spills, diesel spills and anything like that, we can contain," said Baltz. "Everybody works well with each other. We know who is going to do what when we get on scene. We've got all that worked out from drilling and training together."

"We've had a couple train derailments in Lawrence County. We've had a dynamite truck here in our county that flipped over. We had a local factory have an acid spill," said Baltz.

©2009 KAIT

 All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.