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Fire Crews, Bomb Squad Practice Hazmat Response in Montecito Training Drill

Teams from local agencies work through disposing of hazardous materials and decontaminating each other in case of exposure

Firefighting crews practice decontamination during a hazardous materials drill Thursday in Montecito. Departments participated from Santa Barbara, Montecito and Carpinteria/Summerland, in addition to the Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Department bomb squad.
Firefighting crews practice decontamination during a hazardous materials drill Thursday in Montecito. Departments participated from Santa Barbara, Montecito and Carpinteria/Summerland, in addition to the Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Department bomb squad.  (Lara Cooper / Noozhawk photo)

Montecito-area firefighting crews from multiple agencies worked Thursday morning, with many wearing head-to-toe protective gear and breathing apparatus, as part of an annual training drill to make sure they're prepared for an encounter with hazardous materials during the course of their work.

Miramar Avenue was closed down to traffic on Thursday morning as crews from the Montecito, Santa Barbara and Carpinteria/Summerland fire departments were on scene for the drill, as well as members of the Santa Barbara County Sheriff's Department and its bomb squad robot.

Members of MERRAG, the Montecito Emergency Response & Recovery Action Group, a network of volunteers who train to respond to community disasters, also helped out. 

It was part of a required hazardous material training that each agency needs for certification, and crews worked through various scenarios, including one where radioactive material was found in a parked abandoned car.

Crews practiced how to safely approach and dispose of the material. 

"It's a great opportunity for all of these South Coast agencies to work together," said Geri Ventura, spokeswoman for the Montecito Fire Protection District.

Groups also practiced decontaminating team members with hoses and scrub brushes after being exposed to hazardous chemicals.

Crews "find" radioactive material in an abandoned car during Thursday's hazardous materials drill. (Lara Cooper / Noozhawk photo)

Montecito Fire Capt. Dave Andreas was overseeing one of the scenarios, and said hazardous materials are something firefighters deal with often.

"Chemicals are transported on the road every day," he said. "If there's an accident or a spill, that's when we have to come out and take care of it."

Andreas said that overturned tankers of gas or an accidental mix of household chemicals that create toxic fumes are examples of situations where hazmat skills would be required.

The drill is scheduled to continue on Friday morning.

Noozhawk staff writer Lara Cooper can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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