Kalispell’s Regional Hazardous Materials Team didn’t have to hold its scheduled drill today.
It had the real thing instead.
The HazMat team responded this morning to an unknown liquid spillage at the intersection of West Reserve Drive and Whitefish Stage Road. No one was injured.
Evergreen Fire Marshal Wayne Evert said the milky liquid was eating away the asphalt and apparently producing smoke, which he said could have been dust. The liquid came from a broken jug on the road. As of early afternoon, nobody knew where the jug came from, though HazMat officials said it probably fell out of a vehicle.
An area with a 50-foot radius was taped off surrounding the spill. After testing a sample of the liquid, Kalispell Firefighters in hazardous materials suits determined with 97 percent confidence that it was muriatic, or hydrochloric, acid, often used in masonry to remove cement from rocks. It is harmful to humans.
The Kalispell Fire Department took over the HazMat team from the county two months ago. The team has firefighters from different regional fire departments. It is one of six in the state.
The fire department canceled the drill it was planning to have in the afternoon today, which would have been open to the public and designed partly for training and partly so people could see what they do.
“This is our drill,” Fire Ass. Chief of Prevention D.C. Haas said, pointing to two men in blue full-body suits carrying a container of 10 to 15 cubic centimeters of the acid.
Fire Chief Randy Brodehl said this was the first time that he knows of in the six years he’s been here that the team has responded to a liquid spillage.
Brodehl said that because the spill’s on a state highway, the Department of Transportation is responsible for cleanup.
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