This municipal combination fire department established its hazmat team to cover the city, some 69 square miles with about 61,000 people. They did such a good job of handling hazmat incidents, the Vineland (N.J.) Fire Department team became the primary unit covering all of Cumberland County.
That boosted the 30-person team’s coverage area to almost 678 square miles and a population of 150,000. Vineland’s was one of the first hazmat teams in South New Jersey. Formed in 1985, it remains an original fire-based response team where others shifted to a county-level management team after September 11.
Cumberland County is home to several glass manufacturers with Vineland serving as the industry’s hub. Outside Vineland, agriculture is prominent. According to Data USA, nearly 13% of the county’s employment is in the manufacturing sector. And in terms of production value, pharmaceutical products make up 10% of the county’s GDP, while gasoline, fuel oils and chemicals account for a combined 19%.
One notable historical hazmat issue involved the Vineland Chemical Company Superfund site. Nearly $150 million from company owners ($3 million), a 2008 economic stimulus grant ($25 million) and EPA (more than $120 million) was spent to remediate arsenic and other toxins from the soil and water. The company used arsenic to produce herbicides and fungicides from 1949 until 1994. Authorities detected ground and surface water contamination as early as 1966. Cleanup was completed in 2014.
To prepare for these threats the full team trains at least quarterly. That’s due in part because they have both career and volunteers on staff. The career staff train on hazmat at the platoon level each time their shift rotation falls on a Saturday.
In addition to its 2006 Freightliner, the team also has a 2004 F-350 quick-response vehicle. They have three trailers: an early 2000s custom foam trailer, an enclosed mass casualty decontamination trailer and a smaller mass decontamination trailer.