85th Civil Support Team Responds to Syracuse Hazmat Incident

 

By LTC Tyler Smith and

LTC Hank McIntire

 

Published August 10, 2010

 

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An 85th Civil Support Team member communicates with a colleague at the Syracuse chemical incident July 25.

Photo by LTC Tyler Smith

An 85th Civil Support Team member communicates with

a colleague at the Syracuse chemical incident July 25.

SYRACUSE, Utah — Members of the 85th Weapons of Mass Destruction Civil Support Team responded July 25 in support of local authorities at a hazardous-materials incident in Syracuse.

The situation bore a striking resemblance to an incident in February, where two young girls died after a pest-control company buried phosphine pellets too close to their house in Layton.

"The incident had an alarming familiarity to the incident that took the lives of Rebecca and Rachael Toone," said LTC Tyler Smith, commander of the 85th, who also responded to the Layton incident.

On July 24 an exterminator had applied spray and granule chemicals around the Syracuse home and in the garage to eliminate earwigs, ants, wasps, and other insects.

The following day the family smelled a strange, metallic odor in the house. They borrowed a carbon monoxide (CO) detector from a neighbor which went off when they brought it into the house.

85th Civil Support Team members monitor their equipment status in support of civil authorities in Syracuse July 25.

Photo by LTC Tyler Smith

85th Civil Support Team members monitor their equipment

status in support of civil authorities in Syracuse July 25.

According to Smith, the Syracuse Fire Department responded, and their hazmat technicians received a false positive for VX nerve gas when they entered the home. This alone was sufficient to warrant evacuation because VX can be consistent with certain insecticides.

Along with local first responders, members of the 85th entered the residence and received slightly elevated volatile-compound readings.

"We ruled out all toxic chemicals using redundant instruments and then checked again with new sensors," explained Smith. "All tests were negative."

Recalling the Layton incident, Smith observed that about half of the first responders on the incident were involved in the Layton tragedy and seemed somewhat "gun shy" to anything involving pesticides and CO detectors.

"I'm convinced that the incident commander did the right thing by evacuating and requesting our assistance based on the information he had initially," said Smith. "The family was grateful and although inconvenienced by being evacuated, they were equally convinced that being ruthlessly thorough to ensure their safety was warranted."

"The successful analysis that the 85th provided was not what was there but what was not there," Smith added. "We provided the incident commander with the assurance that there were no toxic chemicals in the house. Ruling that out allows the IC to narrow his focus to a potential gas leak and in declaring the house ‘all clear,’ it allows the family back in with the confidence that he did everything in his power to ensure their safety."

 
 
     

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