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Hartselle Enquirer

Falkville VFD pursues funds for HAZMAT truck

By Michael Wetzel

For the Enquirer

The effort to obtain a hazardous materials fire truck for Falkville intensified after a toxic chemical spill in October, but plans to purchase one are on hold until a source of funding can be located.

Last week the Morgan County Commission approved an application for a grant for Federal Emergency Management Agency financial assistance, but Morgan EMA Director Brandy Davis said she has since learned the truck, estimated to be about $325,000, cannot be funded through the program.

“A HAZMAT truck is something that is definitely needed in that part of the county,” Davis said, “but we were informed the purpose of the funding isn’t allowed in the grant – but I believe we’ll be able to find another grant that might fit for what we want.”

Oct. 7 a tanker truck leaking a hazardous chemical pulled off Interstate 65 and into a fuel station on Morgan County 55. About 100 Falkville residents were evacuated from their homes for about five hours while the spill was contained and cleaned.

The driver told authorities his tanker was leaking anhydrous ammonia, a toxic chemical used as a fertilizer component. The Morgan County Sheriff’s Office said a Decatur Fire and Rescue HAZMAT crew arrived at the scene in less than 30 minutes and was able to close a leaky valve on the tanker.

Davis said after the incident, discussions with the Falkville Volunteer Fire Department about a HAZMAT truck gained urgency.

“The terrain along the interstate and the railroad, being a sleeping giant, are things we can’t ignore,” she said.

Morgan County District 3 Commissioner Don Stisher agreed, saying the time has come for Morgan County to take the next step in protecting its residents.

“With the truck traffic on the interstate, these types of things will become more frequent,” he said. “With the two truck stops in Falkville, we’re a destination point. It’s time we get something. Hopefully we won’t need it, but if we do, we’ll have it.”

Falkville Fire Chief Tyler Tucker said his department will continue to look for ways to fund a truck.

“A HAZMAT truck down here will be beneficial in mitigating fuel spills, not just for Falkville but for the entire county,” he said. “We do have spills from traffic on the interstate, and presently we have to rely on Decatur Fire and Rescue. If we had a truck, we could respond more quickly and be able to assist Decatur.”

Tucker said a heavy rescue-type truck won’t have water on it but will have a small command center equipped with HAZMAT suits and patches to help mitigate fuel leaks.

He said his department is researching a Sutphen or Pierce vehicle for purchase. He said Falkville VFD will house and furnish personnel for the vehicle.

“We’ll explore what’s out there and put out bids once money becomes available,” Tucker said.

He said about five of the department’s 23 volunteer firefighters are certified hazardous material technicians.

“I would like for all of the guys to be certified,” he said. “The truck will be not just for Falkville but for the entire county.”