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The Leavenworth Times - Leavenworth, KS
  • Firefighters train for HAZMAT

  • Leavenworth firefighters wore protective suits Tuesday morning as they retrieved two barrels at a grain elevator near the Missouri River.
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  • Leavenworth firefighters wore protective suits Tuesday morning as they retrieved two barrels at a grain elevator near the Missouri River.
    But, there was no cause for alarm. It was simply a training exercise.
    About 20 members of the Leavenworth Fire Department participated in the hazardous materials training.
    For the exercise, a team of two firefighters retrieved a metal barrel north of the old grain elevator in northeast Leavenworth. Another group retrieved a plastic barrel from inside a building on the east side of the grain elevator.
    Firefighters also set up a decontamination tent as part of the exercise.
    "We're doing a full decon," Leavenworth Fire Chief Gary Birch said.
    Capt. John Marshall, the Fire Department's HAZMAT coordinator, said the barrels were partially filled with water, but they didn't contain hazardous materials.
    Birch said firefighters handling the barrels were dressed in what is called level B HAZMAT gear. This includes Tyvek coveralls, rubber boots, gloves and self-contained breathing apparatuses.
    Firefighters who staffed the decontamination tent also were dressed in level B gear.
    Level A gear would include fully encapsulated suits.
    Firefighters' vital signs were taken before they suited up in the HAZMAT gear Tuesday.
    Birch said if a firefighters has, for example, elevated blood pressure, he won't be allowed to suit up.
    Vital signs are taken again after firefighters return from handling potentially hazardous materials.
    The grain elevator site used in Tuesday's training is owned by the city of Leavenworth.
    Birch acknowledged the HAZMAT response initially may have appeared to be moving slowly Tuesday.
    "Something like this never goes fast," he said.
    He said firefighters have to set up their equipment and take necessary precautions.
    Birch said most of the firefighters in Tuesday's exercise participated in similar training in the past.
    But, Tuesday's training served as a refresher.
    "We have a high number of what they call technician level HAZMAT guys," Birch said.

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