Bucks County, Pa. holds a special piece of history. The county boarders the Delaware River on the southeast, the spot where Gen. George Washington famously crossed during the Revolutionary War, and is one of the three original counties created by William Penn. It also boasts having one of the state’s oldest hazmat teams.
Following several hazmat incidents in the late 1970s, several fire chiefs and the county fire marshal knew something had to be done. In 1982, the Bucks County Hazardous Incident Response Team took life. As was typical in that part of the country, the team members were mostly volunteers.
And that remains true today with all but four members being volunteer. This reliance on volunteers is one of their biggest sources of pride, given how difficult recruiting, retaining and training volunteers are in recent years. It’s also the team’s greatest source of concern as they move into their next 40 years.
The team, on average trains three times per month and as often as possible with outside agencies. And that’s important as Bucks County is the fourth most populous county in the state and lies immediately north of Philadelphia in the Delaware Valley. The jurisdiction has more than 200 chemical facilities, a massive landfill operation and an emerging biotech industry.
In addition to the team’s five main rigs listed at the right, they have several pieces of supporting equipment.
They have two additional foam trailers. And since the hazmat team is part of the larger Bucks County Special Operations unit, they get technical assistance from the USAR and dive teams. They also have a UGV and several UAS to support these and other functions.
With all it has going on, Bucks County Hazardous Incident Response Team is writing the next chapter of its long history.