In 1984, the Fire District responded to a reported substance fuming at a local mobile home community. Once on scene, the crew found unknown vapors issuing from a small sewage treatment plant. The events that transpired over the next 8 hours included an injury of District personnel, the evacuation of the residents, and damage to personal property and District equipment. What became clear was the need for specialized training and equipment to manage the Hazardous Materials incidents the District responds to.
In 1985, the District started the Hazardous Materials Team; equipping it with the latest training and equipment to mitigate incidents and prevent harm to the residents and environment. The team currently consists of 33 members with an average experience level of 10 years. The initial coordinator was Lieutenant Elliott. In 2006, Battalion Chief Elliott was promoted to Fire Chief and appointed Lieutenant Hartman as Coordinator. With Lieutenant Hartman’s retirement in 2010, Eng. Palijan has been appointed as the Haz-Mat coordinator.
To date, the personnel assigned to the Hazardous Materials team have received training from the University of Florida, EPA, National Fire Academy, the International Association of Firefighters and Burgess and Associates. Team members are trained to meet the requirements of CFR 1910.120 paragraph q. Some of the more challenging incidents responded to since its inception include fuel tanker crashes, chlorine leaks, cyanide disposal operations, pesticide spills, Anthrax alerts and marine fuel spills.
Inter-agency cooperation takes the form of team training with the surrounding agencies including the City of Fort Myers Fire Department, the U.S. Coast Guard along with other Lee County Independent Fire Districts and the Lee County Emergency Operations Center. Through the county-wide mutual aid agreement, the District makes the Hazardous Materials Team services available to the area agencies.