Pelham FD receives state-of-the-art hazmat truck

By SCOTT MIMS / Staff Writer

PELHAM — It was the 2016 Colonial Pipeline explosion and spill that spurred conversation between Pelham Fire Chief Tim Honeycutt and CP regarding the need for an all-inclusive hazmat response unit to serve Shelby County.

That need was met in 2018 when Colonial Pipeline donated the entire $1.2 million needed for a new hazmat apparatus. Pelham FD received the truck in February 2020 and displayed it Wednesday, June 3 at a Central Alabama Fire Chief’s Association meeting.

The June 3 meeting was the first such in-person meeting held since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“There is nothing like it really in the Southeast,” said Honeycutt. “We’re blessed and very humbled to have such an incredible apparatus to serve Shelby County and also to assist any of our neighboring communities and municipalities who may need our assistance.”

The state-of-the-art truck sports a weather station with a high-definition 40x thermal imaging camera and nine computer monitors—which is important because the knowledge of weather conditions such as rain, wind direction and humidity are vital during a hazardous materials-related incident. This also allows the truck to be used as a “command center” during large festivals, such as CityFest, to provide live, real-time weather monitoring.

“It’s unbelievable technology that’s on that truck,” Honeycutt said, expressing gratitude to CP and former Operations Manager Troy Gibbons for making it possible. “Troy made a huge impact in us getting that final donation from them.”

Even before the funding came through, Pelham FD was working on a plan. The department provides hazmat response for the entirety of Shelby County in partnership with the Alabaster Fire Department, which handles decontamination. Pelham FD employs a chemist, and 95 percent of its staff are hazmat techs. Members of Alabaster FD spent three days training on the capabilities of the apparatus, Honeycutt said.

The custom-built truck was assembled by Pierce Manufacturing in Appleton, Wisconsin and took about 15 months to build. It was purchased from Emergency Equipment Professionals, a Pelham-based dealer. In February, the truck was scheduled to be shown at a nationwide conference in Indianapolis, but COVID-19 prevented the event from occurring.

“It would have been on the 50-yard line at the (Indianapolis) Colts’ stadium,” Honeycutt said.

With the new truck in place and ready to respond, those who live and work in Shelby County can breathe a little easier knowing that should a disaster occur, officials and first responders are prepared to act.

“With the amount of traffic in Shelby County—tractor trailers, Plantation Pipeline, Colonial Pipeline, I-65, CSX rail and different types of materials being transported every day, you have to have a way to mitigate any type of incident, and people depend on the fire department to be self-sufficient,” Honeycutt said.