by Airman 1st Class Taylor Bourgeous and Airman Sean Campbell
92nd Air Refueling Wing Public Affairs
8/13/2015 - SPOKANE, Wash. -- Twenty-six
Fairchild Airmen assisted Spokane County agencies in responding to a
toxic gas leak Aug. 12 in Spokane, Washington.
The incident began when Pacific Steel and Recycling employees placed an
unmarked 55-gallon drum, thought to be roughly 25 years old, into the
recycling center's crushing machine, resulting in the release of what
was described as yellowish-green gas that immediately began causing
respiratory distress for those present. The incident resulted in the
hospitalization of at least four people, two of whom were in critical
condition, and at least 17 others who were downwind of the chlorine
The response to this chemical leak required the coordination, training,
experience and manpower of numerous emergency response agencies in the
region. Thirteen Fairchild fire department personnel were initially
called to provide decontamination for people exposed to the gas prior to
their transport to the hospital. They were later joined at the incident
scene by another dozen Fairchild Airmen from the 92nd Medical Group's
bioenvironmental team as well as 92nd Civil Engineer Squadron emergency
According to Kimo Kuheana, the 92nd CES fire chief, there was no way one department could have handled it all.
"What I like about this is we train nearly every day and, despite any
manning issues we [Fairchild members] or any of the other agencies may
have, we're able to come together as one unified hazardous material
team," Kuheana said. "Incorporating all the different agencies together
is huge for our community."
The Fairchild HAZMAT team trains with the City of Spokane and local
Kootenai County HAZMAT teams as the only three of groups qualified to
handle a HAZMAT issue in the region, Kuheana explained. This incident,
while unfortunate, provided a real-world situation that brought all
their training to realization.
Staff Sgt. Bryan Foley, a 92nd CES emergency management member, said it
was a shock to get the call because that morning he was teaching an
Ability to Survive and Operate course on base to 156 students, then that
afternoon he put his skills to the test helping to identify what was
then an unknown hazard. It was later determined to be chlorine gas.
"Every agency out here is bringing something different to the fight,"
Foley said. "We have Airmen with only a few years of experience to some
of the local fire fighters who have more than 35 years of experience."
Lieutenant D.J. Hill, the Fire Station 1 hazardous material coordinator,
said The partnership developed over the past nearly two years with
Fairchild during monthly training and alert response was critical to
Hill said, "I can't tell you how much we appreciate Fairchild's willingness to help us out."