Local Airport Drill Tests HazMat Readiness

Inset above: Fighting a fire with foam; and in the background, oil tank cars

LIMERICK PA – First-responders and apparatus from fire companies and departments that are members of two Montgomery County Public Safety task forces worked Sunday (Nov. 8, 2015) from 7-11 a.m. at Heritage Field Airport, in what is expected to become an annual drill of skills to extinguish potentially hazardous fuel or chemical fires.

Montgomery County's fire foam pumper, purchased during 2014

Montgomery County’s fire foam pumper, purchased during 2014

Airport Road between Ridge and Lightcap roads was closed for a period during the exercise, the Limerick Fire Company reported, “due to the amount of trucks and hose being utilized.” Three pieces of its equipment – Engine 54, Utility 54, and the county’s Foam Trailer 81-2, which is housed in the West Ridge Pike fire station – were used in the airport drill for the county’s Large Diameter Hose and Foam task forces, it said in a Facebook status update.

The four-hour training session for fire-fighters and others from across the county was intended to ensure their readiness to respond to emergencies that might involve explosive or flammable materials, officials indicated. Among their concerns are locomotive tank cars carrying loads of Bakken crude oil.

The oil is named for the owner of North Dakota fields where it was first discovered.

Oil-laden trains regularly travel across several municipalities, including Limerick and Lower Pottsgrove townships and the borough of Pottstown. During a conference held this April in Royersford, Montgomery County Commissioner Valerie Arkoosh said an estimated 60 to 80 oil trains carrying more than one million gallons of Bakken crude pass through Pennsylvania weekly.

Derailments and other accidents elsewhere in the U.S. in recent years, in which freight trains carrying Bakken crude played a role, prompted county and local authorities to ramp up planning for the potential of incidents here. More than 40 people were killed in one incident.

About a year ago the county used a $350,000 federal Homeland Security grant to buy a 2014 Rosenbauer foam pumper truck to enhance the foam task force’s ability to respond to hazardous material incidents. The pumper has a 250-gallon tank that will hold specialized foam, and a 750-gallon tank for water.

The county also pursued other grants for incident planning and management “to move closer to the national preparedness goal of a capable response to threats and hazards that pose the greatest risk,” the department said.

Top photos from Google Images; pumper photo from Montgomery County