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Laughlin aids Kinney County during emergency

  • Published
  • By 2nd Lt. Angela Martin
  • 47th Flying Training Wing Public Affairs
When at least 30 railroad cars derailed about 11 miles east of Laughlin Feb. 7, the Kinney County Sheriff's Office called upon experts here to assist with identifying potentially hazardous material at the scene.

Earlier that morning, Kinney County officials smelled a faint chemical odor at the scene and determined that at least one of the derailed cars was an empty tanker previously carrying chlorine. There were no injuries during the derailing.

Laughlin holds a mutual memorandum of agreement with Val Verde and Kinney Counties to offer assistance and resources during emergency situations.

"This was a Kinney County and railroad operation and we were asked to provide assistance in the accident response in accordance with our long-standing plans," said Col. James Jinnette, 47th Flying Training Wing vice commander. "We are pleased we had the resources to support our friends in the local community during this effort."

Laughlin's hazardous material response team, comprised of Airmen from the 47th Civil Engineer Squadron and 47th Medical Operations Squadron, have the capability to respond to hazardous material situations throughout southwest Texas.

"Laughlin has never hesitated, they've always responded when we needed them to," said Kinney County Sherriff L. K. "Buddy" Burgess.

Upon arrival at the scene, the HAZMAT team set up a mobile command post at a safe location and prepared for an initial assessment of the situation. 

Prior to entering a scene, the team puts on suits designed to prevent exposure to hazardous material, said David Isbell, 47th CES assistant chief of fire prevention. Next, they enter the scene searching for leaked substances and attempt an initial identification of any material found. Upon return, the team is decontaminated, develops a plan for the next step and begins further evaluation of found material.

"We play a vital role in coming out here because there aren't many HAZMAT teams in southwest Texas, so we lend our support out to the community," said Senior Airman Taylor Manuel, 47th CES firefighter.

To be fully prepared for emergency situations, the HAZMAT team exercises varied scenarios monthly.

"This is what we're ready for," said 2nd Lt. Gregory Arrington, 47th MDOS. "Our systems and supplies are always ready to go." 

The HAZMAT team determined that the car was empty and not leaking, said Craig Alexander, 47th CES assistant chief of special operations.

Although the derailment is still under investigation, Laughlin's HAZMAT team declared the site safe from health threats, permitting Kinney County and railroad officials to safely continue with site management and cleanup.
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