Agreement aims to recoup lost HazMat costs

Through a recently approved agreement, Hays County emergency officials hope to recoup costs lost during Hazardous Materials (HazMat) incidents.

On March 12, Hays County Commissioners unanimously approved an agreement with First Responders Solutions LLC, (FRS) which will oversee and manage HAZMAT incidents and provide data collection for the county’s teams. The company is also expected to “provide management and conduct studies, hearings, and investigations to determine the Hazardous Materials Team,” according to Hays County documents. 

Kyle Taylor, Kyle Fire Department Chief, said First Responders will primarily oversee billing for the county’s HazMat crews. The goal is to recoup and recover costs on “incidentals” used by HazMat during calls.

During a recent truck rollover at the FM 150 Double Crossings at Onion Creek, Hays County’s HazMat crews used booms to control diesel fuel from spreading downstream. As a result, emergency officials had to replace those booms. 

Freddy Rolon, Kyle firefighter and HazMat training officer, said much of the equipment used by HazMat crews is not reusable and costs “tens of thousands of dollars to repurchase.”

However, Taylor said FRS will work with insurance companies to recover the costs for items lost.

“They go out and we tell them what we used, and they go to insurance companies involved and tell them we used this stuff and they write us a check to pay for it,” Taylor said.

In addition, county leaders also moved its lone HazMat vehicle to a more centralized location in Kyle. Previously, Hays County’s HazMat had been located in San Marcos. Taylor said the HazMat truck unofficially moved to Kyle Oct.1, 2018.

A member of the Kyle Fire Department receives assistance as they demonstrate suiting up for a possible hazardous materials call.

“We have about one or two big calls a month,” said Kyle Fire Chief Kyle Taylor. “But our department team is also part of the county team and a regional team. We serve those calls as well.”

Taylor’s department trains as many firefighters to be members of the HazMat team as possible due to the routine nature of calls. The typical call happens once every one or two weeks and includes events such as a gasoline spill, a car accident or a home gas leak.

Rolon said the county is increasing efforts to build a larger, sustainable team due to the area’s rapidly growing population. The county’s combined HAZMAT forces total about 60 responders.

“A lot of people think HAZMAT is us dealing with mass emergency events, but we respond to gas leaks and car accidents,” Rolon said. “There is little regulation with what chemicals are trafficked through the highway as well, so, as the population increases with traffic, we’re needed for safety.”

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