Five Fire Departments Receive CHEMTREC® HELP Award to Boost Hazmat Preparedness and Response

Since 2019, CHEMTREC® has partnered with the National Volunteer Fire Council (NVFC) to help volunteer fire departments become better equipped to respond to hazardous materials incidents. This year, five NVFC members have been selected to receive $10,000 for their fire departments through the CHEMTREC® Hazmat Emergencies Local Preparedness (HELP) Award. The award will allow the departments to obtain critical training, equipment, and resources they wouldn’t otherwise be able to access to prepare for and respond to hazmat emergencies.

“Many volunteer fire and emergency service agencies across the country have hazardous materials in or passing through their response area, whether it be through a pipeline, highway, railroad, plant, or something else,” said NVFC chair Steve Hirsch. “For resource-constrained departments, obtaining the equipment and training to effectively and safely respond to these incidents can be a significant challenge. This award changes that. We thank CHEMTREC® and award sponsors American Chemistry Council and Dow for their commitment to helping departments be ready for the call.”

To be eligible, departments had to be more than 50 percent volunteer, serve a population of 25,000 or less, have an annual budget of less than $250,000, and the person applying or chief of the department must be a member of the NVFC. Grant funds must be used to increase the department’s hazmat response capabilities.

This year’s recipients are as follows.

Caledonia (NY) Fire Department
Within the village of Caledonia in western New York there are four industrial plants with rail cars and trucks transporting hazardous materials to and from the locations. Unsurprisingly, almost half of Caledonia Fire Department’s calls are hazmat related. Three years ago, a particularly large fire involving a fertilizer plant and rail car occurred. While the department was able to contain the fire using the little equipment it had, it took the whole night and next day to clean up – time that could have been spent responding to other emergencies.

With the CHEMTREC® HELP Award, the department hopes to purchase a comprehensive hazmat training package and build a designated training area, as the nearest training facility is 45 minutes away.

Gales Ferry (CT) Volunteer Fire Company
Hazardous materials are ever-present in the small Connecticut village of Gales Ferry; they are transported on a nearby highway and rail line, stored in several plants, and shipped along the neighboring Thames River. Many calls involve local businesses who report chemical odors making customers and employees sick. However, the department only has basic metering capabilities and typically needs to call on mutual aid partners to assist – the response of which is often significantly delayed.

While numerous department members have completed their hazardous materials technician certifications, a lack of funding and tools prevents the fire company from increasing its response capabilities. With the CHEMTREC® HELP Award, the department plans to purchase additional meters and a flammable gas leak detector.

Haynesville (LA) Fire Department
Several years ago, law enforcement stopped a truck leaking fluid on a major highway that passes through the rural town of Haynesville, LA. The fluid was determined to be toxic biological waste. The Haynesville Fire Department helped shut the highway down and clean up the waste, which took 14 hours. This type of incident is not unexpected, as trucks pass through town every day carrying hazardous materials. And while the department’s volunteers are trained to respond to hazmat incidents, there are communication dead zones in its response area that make it difficult to convey important information during an emergency.

The CHEMTREC® HELP Award will allow the department to purchase communication devices, such as radios and pagers, to ensure a seamless response to hazmat emergencies.

Patrick Springs (VA) Volunteer Fire Department
Included in the response area of this all-volunteer department are a major and soon-to-be-expanded highway with trucks carrying hazardous materials, propane-fueled homes and businesses, and homemade methamphetamine labs representative of a growing drug problem in the area. Each of these sources pose the risk of a large-scale fire. Some department members are certified hazmat technicians, but if a significant disaster were to occur, mutual aid partners would need to be called in – and they can take more than two hours to arrive.

Using the CHEMTREC® HELP Award, the department plans to purchase equipment that will improve hazmat incident response capabilities, such as additional meters and monitors, a calibration kit, sealing and patching tools, storage bags, and suits.

Sequoyah County Rural Fire Protection District #1 (Gore, OK)
The risk of a major hazmat incident is high in the response area of Sequoyah County Rural Fire Protection District #1. Located nearby is a uranium recycling facility as well as a major highway with trucks often carrying hazardous materials, maritime traffic, and a railroad.

Members of the department are trained in hazmat response, and the department itself has hosted hazmat awareness classes for the surrounding area. However, the skill level of members does not align with the equipment, or lack thereof, available. With the CHEMTREC® HELP Award, the department will purchase suits, gas meters, and decontamination materials.

Learn more about the CHEMTREC® HELP Award.

CHEMTREC® is the leading source of 24/7 call center support and information during hazardous materials incidents. CHEMTREC is the single point of contact that connects emergency responders with everyone involved – manufacturers, shippers, consignees, carriers, and government agencies. CHEMTREC is equipped to handle any situation and any class of hazardous material.

CHEMTREC and its team of trained, experienced Emergency Services Specialists provide emergency responders with the information they need to safely and effectively manage shipping incidents, including guidebooks, training opportunities, and industry resources. CHEMTREC’s service is complimentary for emergency responders.

About the NVFC
The National Volunteer Fire Council (NVFC) is the leading nonprofit membership association representing the interests of the volunteer fire, emergency medical, and rescue services. The NVFC serves as the voice of the volunteer in the national arena and provides critical advocacy, resources, programs, and education for first responders across the nation. Learn more at