Firefighters tackle hazards

Members of the Mount Pleasant Fire Department practice containing a leak from a drum on Thursday.

Mount Pleasant -- While wearing hot, airtight suits, town firefighters went through their hazardous material training on Thursday.

Throughout the day, 15 members of the Fire Department went through drills involving leak control and decontamination areas.

"We have 45 people going through the 40-hour class, so they are divided into three separate classes," said Capt. William Simpson, who trains the firefighters.

Simpson has been with the department for 10 years, and said that it is great that they are engaging in HAZMAT training. "We will have more people that will be more able to handle these situations."

Firefighters typically go through four hours of training, public relations events and answering numerous calls on a daily basis. Incidents relating to hazardous materials, such as a chlorine leak last year, have had few personnel to respond to it.

"During the chlorine leak from last year, we only had 18 personnel for that kind of situation, and some of them were already out answering other calls," Simpson said. "The training gives us a lot more manpower to mitigate such scenarios." He said that they will look into further training for the next budget year.

The Emergency Management Division provided $5,600 in funds for the classes to be held, and the practice materials were provided by the South Carolina Fire Academy, which had some of their personnel in attendance coaching the firefighters.

Since there were no actual leaks, the team went through simulations of leaks coming from drums and pipes from chemical facilities.

The required uniforms that had to be worn were Level A "Totally Incapsulating" suits. The suits are comprised of Kevlar and Tyvek, giving it a design that can block off all hazardous materials.

"We test them for leaks and holes on an annual basis," Simpson said. Aside from raising the heart rate and blood pressure, the suits can build up interior heat of 140 to 150 for personnel wearing them.

"It was very hot," said David Miller, one of the firefighters training. "It still is a good idea that we are doing this."