Fire Academy technicians learn hazmat techniques

Posted at: 03/27/2013 5:41 PM
Updated at: 03/27/2013 10:25 PM
By: Stuart Dyson, KOB Eyewitness News 4

Albuquerque firefighters have been training for something they hope they’ll never have to do – but the reality is they probably will.

The problem? A tanker truck loaded with 10,000 gallons of fuel has a rollover accident. How do you climb up on it, drill through its aluminum skin and pump the fuel out into a recovery tanker  without having the whole thing blow up in your face?

Firefighters use a section from a real full-sized tanker for the training.

“Our enemy in this is static electricity,” said Lt. Jeff Hankins, who manages the department’s hazmat team. “We don’t want any sparks in the vicinity of this tanker while we’re off-loading this, so what we do is set up a grounding field.”

Firefighters run cables from the tanker into the ground where they’ve dug trenches and filled them with water. This dissipates and neutralizes the static electricity.   Everything and everybody is grounded.

“We make sure all of our equipment is bonded to the tank so we don’t have any issues with static electricity that could cause an explosion and a very flammable atmosphere,” Hankins said.

This is new training. Up until now technicians from a private oil company have contracted out to do the job. Now firefighters will be able to do it themselves.

There have been a handful of tanker rollovers in recent years – each one a potential disaster – but now firefighters know the right way to take care of business.