Low call-volume fire departments need to share resources to provide all the response capabilities necessary. And that’s especially true when it comes to hazmat.
Roughly 40 miles northwest of Chicago on the outskirts of Elgin, Illinois is the Pingree Grove and Countryside Fire Protection District. This combination department with eight full-time staffers and 41 part-time members covers an area of 50 square miles.
In 2020 the department ran about 1,300 calls; of those two were hazmat. And in the previous year, three of their 1,227 calls were for a hazmat incident.
The fire district’s hazmat team consists of three members trained to the technician level. With so few members on the team, even one major incident would overwhelm them. To get around this, the district is part of the Mutual Aid Box Alarm System (or MABAS), which is a systematic way to knowing what resources are available and getting them quickly where needed. Including the district, 11 entities belong to MABAS Division II. The MABAS system covers all of Illinois and includes many departments across stateliness that border Illinois. MABAS has 40 hazmat teams.
The Pingree Grove hazmat team trains monthly. Its team members also train bimonthly with their MABAS hazmat team.