Vineyard firefighters undergo hazardous materials training


Firefighters from several Vineyard departments took part in a hazardous materials training over four days last week at West Tisbury Fire Station No. 2. Instructors from the Massachusetts Firefighting Academy lectured and trained 11 firefighters in preparation for written and practical exams. Upon passing their exams, the firefighters will receive a certificate of qualification as Operations Level Responders. 

“An Operations Level Responder responds to hazardous materials and weapons of mass destruction (WMD) incidents to protect people, the environment, and property from the effects of a release,” according to a state website. “This course educates firefighters in basic defensive strategies to safeguard their health and safety when work involves potential exposure to hazardous materials.”

On Saturday, as part of their training, Vineyard firefighters learned how to safely decontaminate fellow firefighters wearing airpacks and their turnout gear, and how to decontaminate fellow firefighters wearing hazmat suits. Two firefighters in Tyvek coveralls used brushes and shower wands to cleanse firefighters individually. Each firefighter stepped into a portable tub and rotated and lifted their limbs in a set sequence as they were scrubbed and sprayed. 

Oak Bluffs Fire Capt. Kyle Gatchell was first to put on a Tychem 10,000 hazmat suit. It took the assistance of several of his peers to properly get him inside the bright lime-yellow suit, green boots, and an air pack. The suits themselves cost about $1,000, according to West Tisbury Fire Lt. Brynn Schaffner, who also noted they are one-use garments. The suit used Saturday was a training suit, but if it were real, and it was used for training, “then it gets thrown away,” he said. The same is true if the suit is used in an actual hazmat incident, he said. Schaffner, who helped organize the training as a facilitator for the Dukes County Fire Training Council, said the written and practical exams haven’t been scheduled yet, but he expects they’ll take place in West Tisbury, too.