Huntsville Fire and Rescue’s Hazmat Team trains to rescue community and each other in hazardous situations

HUNTSVILLE, Ala. - Firefighters work to save others, but sometimes they need rescuing themselves. That's why Huntsville Fire & Rescue's Hazmat Team braved the hot weather on Tuesday for special training.

Firefighters don't just respond to burning buildings, but also where hazardous chemicals have been spilled.

"There's a lot of companies around here that have chemicals, and believe it or not, we have a lot of barrels explode," Capt. Frank McKenzie said. "We've had people get like we said white powder in the mail incident."

That's why the Hazmat Response Team suits up for monthly Rapid Intervention Team (RIT) training.

"When you have two people go in, then you'll want to have two people out so in case something happens with one of those people then you'll be able to go in and make an emergency for that rescuer itself."

This training entails a firefighter in a simulated dangerous situation, and a RIT team going inside the building to retrieve their fellow responder. Then, both rescuers and rescued must quickly and safely clean the chemicals off of them.

"We don't want to take those chemicals, or whatever else they've been exposed to, to a hospital to expose more people," Capt. McKenzie said.

Removing those dangerous chemicals takes both skill and smarts.

"We have to use three different resources to verify what chemical we're dealing with, and make sure that is the chemical we're dealing with, and what steps we need to take, and what precautions we need to take to make sure that we are safe," Capt. McKenzie explained.

The Hazmat Team is made up of 51 Huntsville firefighters. They do a four-hour training session every month on hazardous materials. Each member applied for the position, and the best were picked from the pool of applicants.