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Selma ups HAZMAT trainees

Selma is preparing for the worst.

With the amount of transport that goes through the city on the railroads and roads, the possibility for a chemical spill is always on the horizon.

That is why Selma, Judge Kim Ballard, and the county emergency management agency have teamed up to provide training for Hazardous Material training for 15 firefighters in Selma.

“The city provides the manpower and funding,” said Dallas County EMA interim director Rhonda Abbott. “And the county supplies the training for the firefighters.”

Fifteen members of Selma Fire Department have been working from Monday to Friday to get certified to the hazardous material technician.

“The first two day was all classroom bookwork,” said Selma Fire Chief Michael Stokes. “After that, they have been doing hands-on training for about eight or nine hours a day.”

During the hands on training, the firefighters learned how to identify chemicals that can most likely spill in Selma, how to handle a spill and proper decontamination methods.

“It’s hard to move and hot in the suits,” said firefighter Nick Watley.

Watley said that there is a learning curve for firefighters, because one of the main things the trainers have taught is for the firefighters to slow down.

“It is hard because we are trained to get off of the truck and put a fire out,” said Watley. “Here you have to slow down and identify what you have before you get to the scene.”

Even though Selma has had 15 trained technicians since 2004, Abbott said the need for more is always there.

“When you realize the vast amount of chemicals that transports on the railways and the roads, you see the need for this training,” said Abbott. “You hope something never happens, but it’s important to have people trained in the event it does happen.”

If every firefighter passed the qualification test Friday, the number of certified HAZMAT technicians in Selma would be 30, but neither Abbott nor Stokes wants to stop there.

“It is going to be continual training,” said Abbott. “To have everyone trained will be a win-win for the city and the county.”