New Brunswick

Moncton Fire Department starting own Hazmat team

The Moncton Fire Department has taken the first steps to form its own Hazmat team. The department wants to have half of its firefighters qualified.

Fire Chief Conrad Landry says the department needs 'to be ready'

Moncton Fire Chief Conrad Landry says it's important to establish a hazmat team to cover the southeastern part of the province. (Kate Letterick/CBC News )

The Moncton Fire Department has started the process of establishing a Hazmat team for southeast New Brunswick.

Fire Chief Conrad Landry says the department has just concluded an 80-hour training program to help firefighters become Hazmat technicians.

"It's as basic as how to dress to protect themselves, that's number one, safety's number one. Make sure the public and the surrounding area's safety but also identify the product get the proper information," he said.

Landry said the plan is to partner with the province of New Brunswick.

"So our goal is to have the team set up by the fall for our 'scout team' and then next year, 2020, to have the 'heavy team' set up," he said.

Participants in a Hazmat training program in Moncton run through different scenarios at the fire station on St. George Boulevard. (Pierre Fournier/CBC News)

As the name suggests, scout teams can enter and assess a situation, while the more specialized heavy teams can handle the cleanup. Currently, Saint John and Fredericton have heavy teams, while Edmundston and Bathurst have scout teams.

In June of 2012, a hazardous materials team from Saint John was called in to clean up a chemical spill at the University of Moncton.

The spill involved the chemical dicyclopentadiene (DCPD) and sent one person to hospital and forced the evacuation of two buildings.

Landry said having a unit in the southeastern part of the province is important.

"There's more trucks on the road, there's more chemicals being transported, so that's definitely an aspect," he said.

"We have an international airport. I mean there's lots of commercial freight being shipped out, so that's also an issue. So it's just the nature of the business we've just got to be ready."

Michael Lewis is the acting fire marshal for New Brunswick and also the provincial hazardous materials co-ordinator.

Michael Lewis is the acting fire marshal for New Brunswick and the provincial hazardous material coordinator. He was on hand for the training program in Moncton. (Kate Letterick/CBC News )

"The reality is that we transport thousands or tens of thousands of products every single day in New Brunswick and the majority of products, 99.995 per cent arrive at their destination without incident," Lewis said.

But he said it's important to be ready.

Lewis pointed to a train derailment near Plaster Rock in January 2014, when 19 cars jumped the tracks, including five carrying crude oil and four carrying liquified petroleum gas.

He said that incident highlights the need to make sure the provincial Hazmat team is adequately equipped and prepared.

Lewis was on hand for the training in Moncton.

"This entire program was developed around all hazards," he said.

"So they're learning the basic requirements to keep themselves safe when faced with a potentially dangerous product. So really they're learning personal protective safety, they're learning product identification, they're learning safety requirements, they're learning product movement, they're learning a whole suite of different skills."

A firefighter gets in to a Hazmat suit at the training program in Moncton. (Pierre Fournier/CBC News )

Landry said two more training sessions are planned and the hope is to have 50 of the department's 118 firefighters qualified.

But he said an agreement with the province's office of the fire marshal still has to be finalized.

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