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South Bend Hazmat: Behind the scenes

SOUTH BEND, Ind. – In the wake of the chemical scare at the old Baycote Building in Mishawaka, ABC 57 got a behind the scenes look at the South Bend Hazmat Team.

Indiana is broken up into ten districts and South Bend Hazmat covers District 2 in Indiana. It covers seven counties including St. Joseph, Elkhart, Starke, Marshall, Kosciusko, Pulaski, and Fulton.

"The hazmat team started in 1984 and we have grown from an eight man team per shift to a 12 man team per shift," said Operations Chief Jim Lopez.

Lopez said to become a hazmat technician you must take an 80 hour training course and pass written and hands-on tests.

South Bend’s unit has three shifts and there are twelve members on each shift.

Lopez said there’s a different mindset for responders when you get a dangerous chemical or materials call.

"When you respond to a fire call you try to get in as quick as you can and you’re looking at saving lives and property, where a hazmat call the incident could be much larger, you’re dealing with unknown chemicals," said Lopez.

He said on hazmat calls you have to assess the situation and collect all the information you can before you move forward.

"When you look at what we do, how we train, the equipment that we have, that takes us to the next level to prepare for an incident like Baycote or any other incident," said Lopez.

Elkhart’s Fire Department also has a hazmat unit within the same district. Lopez said they can serve as a backup for South Bend and vice versa.

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