STONEHAM — Chief Matthew Grafton and the Stoneham Fire Department are pleased to report that the District 2 State Hazardous Materials (HAZMAT) Team conducted a realistic training exercise in Stoneham on Tuesday in a vacant restaurant.
Thanks to the generosity of Stoneham Ford, which recently purchased property at 170 Main St. — the former China Moon restaurant — Stoneham firefighters and the state HAZMAT team trained in a former restaurant that is slated to be torn down.
All six state HAZMAT teams train together at least once a month, including the District 2 team with members from Arlington, Belmont, Boston, Braintree, Brookline, Burlington, Cambridge, Chelsea, Dedham, Everett, Lexington, Lynn, Malden, Massport, Medford, Melrose, Milton, Needham, Newton, Quincy, Revere, Saugus, Somerville, Stoneham, Wakefield, Waltham, Watertown, Wellesley, Weston, Weymouth, Winchester, Winthrop and Woburn.
“I want to thank Stoneham Ford for providing a great opportunity to train in a realistic environment. Their generosity will help make our community and our neighboring communities safer,” said Chief Grafton. “I’m also grateful for all of our mutual aid partners from District 2, Cataldo Ambulance, Rigaku Analytical Devices, and our partners at the DPW, police and health departments. I also thank Firefighter Jim McLaughlin, the Stoneham Fire Department’s HAZMAT technician and member of the District 2 HAZMAT Team, who was essential to making this training a reality.”
The first drill simulated an incident in which a restaurant employee was seriously injured as a result of accidentally mixing cleaning chemicals together, similar to an actual incident that claimed a life and injured 10 other people in Massachusetts three years ago.
Firefighters involved in the training scenario were not told in advance what it would entail, and learned details only from dispatchers as they were responding.
Stoneham Firefighters from Group 4 arrived at the building and had to treat a simulated victim who was down in the restaurant, and preliminarily identify the substances involved in the call and the level of HAZMAT response that was needed.
Once Stoneham Firefighters requested a Tier 1 response from the District 2 HAZMAT Team, that Team responded and conducted further analysis of the hazard, requesting an upgraded Tier 2 response that brought additional state HAZMAT equipment and support to the scene.
The HAZMAT team then safely contained and disposed of the chemicals involved.
Stoneham Firefighters who took part in the training were Capt. James Marshall, Lt. Mike O’Sullivan, and Firefighters Dean Blauvelt, Steve Buitkus, Mike Paone, Mike Coughlin, Stefanie Fields, Will King, Paul McIntyre, and Brent Last.
Lunch was provided by Cataldo Ambulance, which provided an ALS Ambulance and Tango 2 rehabilitation unit for the simulation. Additionally, Louis Famous Roast Beef and Pizza of Stoneham surprised firefighters by delivering 20 free pizzas after an employee noticed the training underway.
The second drill simulated the discovery of a clandestine chemical lab in which someone was producing compounds used in the manufacturing of explosives.
Suzanne Schreyer, Ph.D, senior scientist with Rigaku Analytical Devices in Wilmington, volunteered her expertise and set up the chemicals and clandestine lab that HAZMAT teams had to safely recognize and respond to. Dr. Schreyer also provided team members with insight from a chemist’s point of view.
Members of the HAZMAT team successfully identified the compounds in the lab as an explosive hazard and left the building. In a real scenario, the team would have then kept the building secure and requested assistance from the Massachusetts State Police Bomb Squad that is part of the State Fire Marshal’s Office.
“These types of training scenarios provide realistic preparation for teams and help everyone involved iron out any issues we have with teamwork and interagency responses,” said Chief Grafton. “I’m thankful that Stoneham firefighters are able to take part in this kind of high-level training with our outstanding partners from across the region.”
Additional assistance was provided by the Stoneham Police Department, the Stoneham Department of Public Works, and Stoneham Public Health Department, which responded to the restaurant training scenario because the health department regulates restaurants. The training was organized by Watertown Fire Department Lt. David Meagher, the District 2 Team Training Coordinator.
“Both of these exercises were based on current hazards and threats that first responders in our country deal with every every day,” said Massport Fire Assistant Chief Norm Aubert, the District 2 HAZMAT Team Coordinator. “Realistic, hands-on training is the only way to test and refine our skills so that we can provide the best services to the public we serve.”
“Massachusetts Hazmat teams represent a critical part of our public safety infrastructure,” said State Fire Marshal Peter J. Ostroskey. “They train year round to prepare for the vast array of hazards that they confront in the field. Multi-agency drills like this one reflect real-world incidents, which often place them side-by-side with firefighters, chemists, bomb squad techs, and others. The six regional Hazmat teams across Massachusetts can respond to any location in the state within an hour to handle threats that range from a broken mercury thermometer to chemical spills and mixtures to mass contamination incidents.”