BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) - An explosion in Texas at a fertilizer plant resulted in a HAZ-MAT situation due to the dangerous chemicals involved. Would Buffalo be able to handle a similar situation?
Anhydrous ammonia, the chemical involved in the fertilizer plant explosion in Texas, is also used in some Buffalo area industries.
Buffalo Fire Commissioner Garnell Whitfield said, "That material certainly does exist within our community. One of the things we have done in the Buffalo Fire Department, every one of our pumpers - we have a new fleet of pumpers, new equipment, we're wonderfully blessed to have that - every of those pumpers has foam pumping capacity."
All Buffalo pumpers were not equipped with foam two summers ago when a massive fire broke out at Niagara Lubricants on Chandler Street . Buffalo got a lot of help fighting that oil-based blaze. Crews from the Niagara Falls Air Base brought foam with them.
Foam cools down and covers a fire and can be a critical element for HAZ-MAT teams fighting chemical fires.
Mike Barren of Buffalo HAZ-MAT said, "It keeps us safe, but it also suppresses the fire a lot faster than water. There's a chemical in it that makes it go out a lot faster. It's a life saver at fires."
Buffalo's ability to fight chemical fires has been enhanced with a new mobile Field Communications Unit. It can beam out live images of an incident and download live video from the Erie County Sheriff's helicopter.
Upgraded gas monitors are the Buffalo HAZ-MAT's first line of defense.
HAZ-MAT technician Bob Charvat said, "We know when it's getting bad, before we even report to whether it's bad for the general public. This is our safety buffer."
HAZ-MAT team leader Kilpatrick Woodward said, "I can go downrange, into the hot zone, and be able to talk to my entry leader and tell him what's going on downrange, and if there's a problem and I can't communicate with him, I can press this button and then I go citywide, and Buffalo fire dispatch will here me."
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