BY JOSH PRESLEY
The Clay County Local Emergency Planning Committee authorized a study in April to examine the transport of hazardous materials throughout the county.
The study was funded by the Mississippi Emergency Management Agency and examined each major road, waterway, railroad and pipeline and found that Clay County has significant exposure to hazardous materials flow, with more than 500 trucks traveling through the county each day on average.
West Point Fire Chief Johnny Littlefield said that firefighters with the WPFD do quarterly training to be able to respond to incidents involving hazardous materials.
“The study tells me how many loads of hazardous material comes through the county every day and it will blow your mind,” Littlefield said. “That’s fine as long as it keeps going, but if they have a wreck we’ve got to have this training to get it squared away.”
WPFD did its April Hazmat training Thursday and Littlefield said the firefighters do the training in full hazmat gear.
“They had to get fully dressed and do all the checks we do prior to leaving,” he said. “There are two people fully-suited and two others suited but not zipped up as backups.”
Littlefield said the training exercise involved rescuing two 160-pound life-size dummies from WPFD’s training buildling.
WPFD Battalion Leader Ronny Robinson said every shift goes through the training every quarter.
“We just try to stay in practice on getting in and out of our suits, our air time, our communication and our ability to run with the equipment,” Robinson said.
WPFD Firefighter Scott Hinnant said the Hazmat training is important for protecting West Point residents.
“If we contain a fire to one house we just lose the house, but hazardous materials can go wherever the wind blows,” Hinnant said. “If it’s a vapor it could go from one end of town to the other.”
Hinnant said the more training WPFD does, the better prepared firefighters are to help the community.
“Every single house fire has the potential to be a Hazmat situation to some degree,” Hinnant said. “There are such a broad spectrum of hazardous materials that we have to train on it quarterly just to keep our knowledge up.”
WPFD Firefighter Allen Flynt said all the trucks coming down Highway 45 have the potential to be Hazmat situations.
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