Local firefighters undergo contamination training

Two Ladysmith firefighters wear Hazmat suits for an emergency decontamination drill. The firefighters were learning how to respond to hazardous material calls during a four-day course on Sunday

Two Ladysmith firefighters wear Hazmat suits for an emergency decontamination drill. The firefighters were learning how to respond to hazardous material calls during a four-day course on Sunday

Clad in blue tarp-like suits, Ladysmith firefighters had the chance to get contaminated.

The 24 members are learning how to protect themselves and the community from dangerous contaminants.

“We need to decon ourselves,” Fire Chief Ray Delcourt said about the Hazmat course.

The four-day, 32 hours of training, teaches the firefighters how to decontaminate.

The concern is bringing back chemicals or other hazardous materials “back from the site to the fire hall or back to our families,” Delcourt said.

Brent Cowx, an instructor with the Justice Institute of B.C. was on hand to show the volunteers how it’s done properly.

“It shows basically how contamination should end up in the first pool and by the time they get to the third pool there should be no contamination on them whatsoever,” Cowx said.

In front of the fire hall, were three kiddie pools and hoses. Wearing the training Hazmat suits, the firefighters went one by one into the pools.

Each had green dye on them to represent contamination.

Delcourt said it’s important because they deal with this sort of emergency all the time.

“Whether it’s a tractor-trailer on its side with dangerous goods or labs,” he said. “There are so many applications.”

In an emergency, the firefighters will be able to respond effectively.

“They find the leak and prevent environmental damage,” Cowx said.

The Ladysmith fire department is in the process of purchasing the Hazmat suits, Delcourt said.

Emergency decon training is in short supply on the Island.

Along with Ladysmith, only Victoria, Central Saanich and Campbell River, have the training.

“In reality you have to have the training to be able to respond,” Delcourt said. “We’re doing it for our community.”

With this course the firefighters are now certified under the International Association of Firefighters and the Justice Institute of B.C.

So what’s it like in one of the suits?

“Wrap yourself in a tarp,” said Barry Hartl, one of the volunteers.

“It’s bulky and very muggy.”