Generally, emergency responders expect to happen upon hazardous materials when responding to transportation or fixed facility incidents. Sometimes, haz mats (or potential haz mats) may be found in unexpected locations. Familiarity with haz mat container shapes and colors can be important clues indicating the presence of haz mats.
Crews responded to a grass fire on a cold day. The fire was running through some overgrown back yards; the fuels were light and about 18-24 inches high. A slight breeze was blowing, keeping the moderate smoke condition low to the ground. While pulling a hose line toward the fire, a long, cylindrical object with round ends was spotted! What’s a pressure container doing in a back yard?? The Incident Commander was informed of the finding. Flames around the cylinder were knocked down, the cylinder was removed from the burn area, and crews were able to determine the object didn’t pose a hazard.
This object wasn’t the only potentially hazardous item found. A 1.5 gallon, plastic gasoline container and a portable shop air tank were found in the burn area. Several tires were burning, requiring staff to remain clear of the tire smoke while extinguishing the fire.
Always be on the lookout for potentially hazardous items. Sometimes, hazardous items will be found in unexpected locations. For a quick drill at the kitchen table, discuss this subject with your crew. What unusual conditions has your crew found? What examples can you bring to the table (pun intended) for this drill?