The Patrick Springs Volunteer Fire Department received the 2023 Chemtrec Help Award worth $10,000, with proceeds earmarked to buy hazmat equipment.
“We’re anticipating more tractor-trailer accidents with the (U.S.) 58 road expansion” because the crew also is “expecting a lot more tractor-trailer traffic to be coming through Patrick Springs and going up the mountain,” Capt. Ross Adams said and added the department is trying to be proactive by purchasing more hazmat equipment.
Although the fire crew currently runs one or two calls a year where it could use hazmat equipment, it’s expecting more, Adams said.
“With more traffic trailer traffic, the likelihood of running more hazmat incidents is likely. So, we’re just more or less trying to be proactive to combat the rising call volume for hazmat incidents,” he said.
Adams said the department used the funds to purchase two Level A hazmat suits, which are “basically the highest level of protection that you can have against chemicals, gases, and stuff like that. We bought two suits so our chemical technicians can be fully” equipped with Personal Protection Equipment (PPE), “and safe when dealing with hazmat emergencies.”
A Photoionization Detector (PID), or an air reading meter that picks up any combustible gas in the air also was purchased. It too will be used when responding to tractor-trailer accidents.
“If the tractor-trailer is hauling some type of hazmat that’s unbeknown to us, we’ll be able to use that meter. It’s very sensitive to hopefully pick up that ‘hey, something’s combustible we need to be careful, we need to get our PPE on and figure out what we’re dealing with,’” Adams said.
Some Plug N’ Dike kits, or plug and patch kits, also were bought to be used in cases of crashes that include a ruptured fuel tank, or if there’s a leaking drum that’s leaking chemicals, “we can plug it and contain the leak,” Adams said.
Calibration kits for the two standard gas meters for propane or carbon dioxide emergencies were also purchased with the grant funding. “Now, we can calibrate those meters monthly in house and that just make sure the meters are reading accurately and ready for use,” he said.
Adams said 20 of the department’s members are trained in hazmat operations and two are trained hazmat technicians.
“The difference between” the two is “operations can identify, and they can know that something is going on and something hazmat related, and they can do de-con and stuff like that,” he said. “But our two technicians can do offensive stuff. So, they can stop leaks, they can get in the Level A suits, they can do a lot more stuff with their training.”
He hopes that by 2025, the fire department will have four technicians on its roster.
In the meantime, the department is open to sharing the equipment with other departments. It runs automatic aid with the Moorefield Store Volunteer Fire Department, Stuart Volunteer Fire Department, and Patrick Henry Volunteer Fire Department.
“We’ll go all over the county. We’ve been to Ararat, we’ve been to Meadows of Dan, we’ll go out of state, we go to Sandy Ridge, North Carolina,” Adams said. “We’ll go wherever we’re needed if we’re called, we’ll go.”
Adams said he applied for the grant because departments in the county depend heavily on grants, donations, and fundraising for new equipment.
“Money’s kind of tight as far as operating costs, so all of our county funding and a lot of our fundraising money goes towards yearly operating costs,” he said, adding that the department tries to look for private or federal grants that it’s eligible for and apply for it for equipment.
“I found the grant online, and it was specifically for hazmat equipment, and we had a little bit of a need for hazmat stuff, so I went ahead and wrote it,” he said.
The department first applied for the grant in 2022 but was not chosen. Adams reapplied in August and received confirmation in November that the department would receive the grant. The check was presented on Tuesday, January 9.
Assistant Chief Clint Weidhaas added the department is the first department in Virginia to be selected for the award.
Donations also are accepted and can be mailed to P.O. Box 121 Patrick Springs, VA, 24133.