Kootenai County HAZMAT Crews say chemical leak in Idaho would be - Spokane, North Idaho News & Weather KHQ.com

Kootenai County HAZMAT Crews say chemical leak in Idaho would be manageable

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COEUR D'ALENE, Idaho - HAZMAT specialist Barry Sherman with Kootenai County Fire and Rescue points at an electronic device in a big orange box, he says it uses thermal imagery to identify gases and vapors. 

"I may not know what the chemical is, but this will tell me if it's toxic or it's corrosive so then I know how to handle it," says Sherman. 

He shows off a number of other pieces off equipment, an airtight suit, and a small handheld device that test the air quality for things like carbon monoxide. He says for someone who deals with hazardous materials, these are your best friend. 

"As a regional response team or HAZMAT team our primary responsibility is first to identify and contain," says Sherman.

Sherman says you never trust just one piece of equipment to tell you what chemical you're dealing with, but once it is identified, the next step is to contain it. And that was a problem that Fairchild HAZMAT crews ran into during a chemical leak at the port of entry at the Washington, Idaho state line. 

Sherman says containing chemicals can be tricky because each of them behave in different ways, "Some of them might be lighter or heavier than air, they can rise up and dissipate into the atmosphere, some may hang low close to the ground, each chemical is individual, unique." 

Dealing with more than a dozen HAZMAT calls every year, Sherman says the Kootenai County Fire and Rescue HAZMAT crew is more than capable of handling an incident like the one that happened at the state line. 

"We're going to assess it, identify it, and if we can't handle it, then we have the resources of the civil support team and state comm. in Boise where we can pull in just about any resource that we want to." 
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