HazMat team short player

Fire department officials ask city, county to draft additional technicians

The danger of working with hazardous chemicals and sweating in a hot, chemical-proof suit have made finding a volunteer for the Moffat County Hazardous Materials Team a daunting task, but it looks like the team will be fully staffed.

Bill Johnston, Hazardous Materials (HazMat) team chief, approached the Moffat County Board of Commissioners with the newly-formed emergency response team's dilemma. One member of the specially-trained team quit, leaving a opening on the eight-person team.

An agreement between the Craig Rural Fire Protection District, Moffat County and the City of Craig states: In the event of an open position, the county and the city must supply a new member to the team.

The county or city must also pay that person's salary while they attend a two-week training program for the position.

"What we need is two week's pay for the employee. The rest is reimbursable to the person who owned the chemical," Johnston said.

Officials believe employees would be less likely to join the HazMat team if two weeks of their vacation time had to be sacrificed for training.

Moffat County Commissioner T. Wright Dickinson said his concern about Moffat County's part in the agreement was there wouldn't be any employees who wanted to join the HazMat team.

"My squeamishness has always been if we can't find somebody, we would have to draft," Dickinson said.

The county and the city will not have to pay the employee's salary after the member is on the team. Regardless if it is standard pay or overtime, the parties responsible for the chemical problem will be charged for the time the employees spent on the scene.

According to both Johnston and Moffat County Sheriff Buddy Grinstead, the amount of time HazMat team members spend on a scene is minimal due to the low number of incidents requiring their response. The team has responded to three incidents since its inception a year ago.

Grinstead said a Sheriff's Department employee is interested in the job.

Craig City Manager Jim Ferree said he has already sent a memo informing department heads of the need for volunteers so the city can meet its obligation.

Johnston said the team will have a full staff with the sheriff's department volunteer, but he believes it is better if they can send one more person to the training. An extra volunteer would put them ahead, eliminating lack-of-staff issues in the future, he said.

Both the county and the city could benefit from having a staff member trained in dealing with hazardous chemicals, Johnston said.

"It should benefit the city and the county to have someone who has knowledge of that stuff around anyway," he said.

Johnston was pleased with the county's and city's contributions to the team.

"All three parties, since the beginning, have worked to make the HazMat team successful and continue to do so," he said.

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