For organizers of a fund-raiser to benefit Oxnard's Hazardous Material Response Team, the timing of a recent spate of chemical fires could not have been better.
"Everybody asks, 'Did we plan it?' " said Ann Johs, an Oxnard City Council member and chairwoman of Sunday's fund-raising spaghetti dinner.
While the answer is negative--"This isn't the way we wanted to get publicity"--the incidents vividly demonstrate the need for $15,000 to $20,000 to buy a portable decontamination unit, she said.
Housed in a trailer pulled by a specially equipped fire truck, the unit contains a water heater and two showers where people exposed to contaminants can wash off the materials. The runoff is stored in an enclosed drum for disposal at a toxic waste site.
Current conditions are more primitive. Firefighters at the May 10 blaze that engulfed a truck containing hazardous waste in Fillmore had to strip at the site and wash off with a pumper truck's hose. A child's inflatable wading pool decorated with cartoons caught the runoff.
"There's no privacy, and the water is cold," said Capt. Russell Anderson of the Oxnard Fire Department.
Proceeds from Sunday's "Firehouse Feed" at Fire Station No. 1 at A and 2nd streets in Oxnard will help buy the new unit. Seven dollars buys as much of Oxnard firefighter Ron Veillette's spaghetti as can be packed away. His recipe includes cumin and salsa.
"It's easy to make, and everybody seems to like it," he said.
Last Big Purchase
The decontamination unit would be the last big purchase for Oxnard's Hazardous Material Response Team, which was created two years ago. The team's fire truck, recently remodeled for use in chemical fires, includes a library on hazardous materials, a computer listing chemicals housed by local businesses and equipment to measure weather conditions.
While the portable decontamination unit would be used primarily by the Oxnard Fire Department, it would benefit the Ventura County Fire Department's hazardous materials team too. Under a cooperative agreement, Oxnard firefighters must respond to large chemical fires in the county, which means that they would bring the decontamination unit with them, Oxnard Fire Chief Richard Smith said.
The unit will be used not only to cleanse firefighters but also victims of chemical fires.