Fire department debuts hazardous materials response unit

Ben Irwin

Visalia Fire will head regional joint response team with new truck

VISALIA – The Visalia Fire Department’s Tulare-Kings County Regional Hazardous Materials Response Unit is ready for action.

The haz-mat unit, which debuted at the Dec. 7 city council meeting, will be utilized in interagency training, allowing response teams to better prepare for arriving on the scene to an incident. Visalia Fire Chief Dan Griswold said the newest addition to the fleet does not require a class A license, whereas the old vehicle did.

“It will be a little bit more easy and realistic for us to have drivers when we need to deploy it,” Griswold said, “we don’t have to find that member that has a class A license to drive us from the city of Visalia to wherever we’re going.”

The unit is outfitted with more space for equipment and personnel along with remote work spaces that allow personnel to research information and be prepared prior to arriving on scene.

“Rather than just a big box with all our tools and equipment in it, we can now separate our equipment strategically,” Griswold said. “For hazardous materials operations, what that can look like is you can have everything that affects your entry team on one side, and equipment and support on the other side, so those things are separated.”

With the addition of a light and camera tower, the unit will be beneficial not just for hazmat response but can also be used on any incident that might require additional assistance.

“We are excited to finally bring this unit on board to be a part of the regional joint response team,” Griswold said.

The regional response team includes jurisdictions from Tulare County and Kings County, serving a need to areas that can’t afford the expenses and training it takes to keep a haz-mat team and vehicles operational. Members of the regional joint response team pay a yearly financial installment to be a part of the response area.

“Our vision for this program is to be able to facilitate interagency training so that when Visalia Fire arrives on scene for an incident, partnering agencies will have the knowledge and training to be able to provide support,” Griswold said.

Hanford Fire Department—the previous owners of the 2007 haz-mat response unit—cut an agreement with Visalia Fire Department to forgo paying yearly regional response area fees in exchange for the keys and title to the unit. City manager Randy Groom said Visalia Fire will maintain the obligation to have a haz-mat team as an on-call resource, as shown via the new lettering on the haz-mat truck.

“Now it says Tulare-Kings Counties Regional Haz-Mat Response, hosted by the Visalia Fire Department and it has our logo on it,” Groom said. “I think we can be proud that we have that resource and that we have made it available to the two counties.”

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