Jacksonville Fire Department uses a multi-layered training approach to keeping its hazardous materials team ready for whatever may come their way. Out of more than 1,500 employees, 70 make up the hazmat team while 160 are trained to the hazmat tech level.
The team trains within the stations daily on various drills or pre-incident plans, and weekly as a team. They have quarterly full-scale exercises that are a culmination of the previous quarter’s training skills. And they train jointly with the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office Bomb Squad, 44th Civil Support Team, FBI and surrounding hazmat teams.
Fifty-eight of the city’s 61 stations house an engine, ladder, rescue (ambulance) and hazmat company. Station 21 also houses Fire 9, a district chief who functions as Hazmat Branch at complex scenes.
In addition to covering Jacksonville’s 950,000 residents, spread across 840 square miles, the hazmat team covers several neighboring counties — adding another 125,000 to their jurisdiction. They can expect to run 700 hazmat incidents each year.
The team has responded to high-profile incidents, including an explosion involving radioactive krypton gas at a local facility, as well as a massive, multiple-alarm fire with multiple explosions at a fuel additive plant.