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Spill drill prepares firefighters

Three firefighters practice decontamination. Everything about the simulation was real - with the exception of the hazardous spill. Several firefighters braved the mock-decontamination hose-down in 40 degree weather for the sake of the exercise. - Jenny Manning/Whidbey News-Times
Three firefighters practice decontamination. Everything about the simulation was real - with the exception of the hazardous spill. Several firefighters braved the mock-decontamination hose-down in 40 degree weather for the sake of the exercise.
— image credit: Jenny Manning/Whidbey News-Times

Navy Region Northwest Fire and Emergency Services Battalion Three and the Oak Harbor Fire Department ran a joint training drill Monday night near the gas station on the Seaplane Base.

The drill served as an extension of the mutual aid training Oak Harbor Fire Department receives from the base fire department.

Both agencies worked through each stage of the simulated spill situation: A one-ton truck with two passengers rear-ended a van transporting three sailors and a barrel of chlorine gas.

Through the mutual aid agreement, Oak Harbor Fire Department personnel are certified as operation trained, “which qualifies the team to dam, dike and divert spills after establishing fire safety,” Scott Steil, battalion chief, said.

The 40-hour training includes spill mitigation, securing an accident scene and decontamination.

Richard Garvin, VP-46, and Sean Nolan, VQ-2, volunteered to act as mock-victims who required decontamination, which involved a brisk hose-down.

“It’s cold,” Garvin said after his mock-decontamination.

The base fire department personnel are technician trained, a certification that requires an additional 40 hours of training and allows personnel access to the highest level of protection, also known as “level A suits.”

Technician training covers detection of and response to chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear and high yield explosives.

“It’s a pretty in-depth process to decontaminate,” Steil said of the “very meticulous” drill.

Mark Soptich, Oak Harbor fire chief, said Monday night’s experience reinforces the true value of the exercise.

“Every time we do this it gives us a chance to work with our neighbors to get us ready for the big one,” he said.

“The drill gets us more comfortable for the next time when we have a real emergency.”

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