The Las Cruces Fire Department (LCFD) Hazardous Materials (Hazmat) Team of Lt. Michael Hall, Lt. David Guerra, Lt. Christopher Johnson, Driver/Operator Joseph Lee, and Firefighter Michael Graham recently won the 23rd annual Hazmat Challenge, at Los Alamos National Laboratory. The event was from Aug. 19, 2019 to Aug. 23, 2019.
The LCFD Hazmat team won by a margin of three points over the New Mexico 64th Civil Support Team. A second LCFD Hazmat team of Lt. John Parr, Lt. Luis Meza, Firefighter Nathan Walley, Firefighter Josh Sanchez, and Firefighter John Montoya placed second in the obstacle course after having to compete in a tie-breaker.
“I would like to congratulate the team members for their hard work and dedication in their representation of the Las Cruces Fire Department and the Hazmat Team,” said Justin Allen, Battalion Chief with the Las Cruces Fire Department.
In past years the LCFD teams have been successful in winning the technical and the obstacle course divisions separately, narrowly missing opportunities to become overall champions by mere points. But this year was another story.
For the past 22 years Hazmat teams have joined the challenge for a chance to network with one another, practice technical skills, and learn new Hazmat techniques under realistic conditions in a safe environment.
Vehicles, trucks, tankers, and rail cars are used as some of the props to mimic real-life hazardous material situations. Past Challenge scenarios have included drug laboratory or chemical hazard identification, a complex valve tree, confined space rescue, compressed gas leaks, a leaking rail car dome, pressurized drum opening, a stinger operation, and a damming/diking exercise from an overturned tanker.
The event is a regional event with teams traveling from as far away as Oklahoma and Missouri to compete. The challenge draws teams with multiple different backgrounds, from combination Fire Department/Hazardous Materials Teams to Hazardous Materials Specific teams. To be able to compete on this level with teams that solely focus on Hazardous Materials response is no small feat.