Black Hawk structure fire shines light on bigger issue facing firefighters

Firefighters often come across hazardous materials when on the scene of a fire, which can be anything, according to Rapid City Fire officials.  

RAPID CITY, S.D. — The large fire at Black Hawk business last week showed just how dangerous a fire like that can be not only to firefighters but also to the general public.

Rcfd Hazmat 11During the fire, large amounts of smoke filled with carcinogens and other contaminants became a point of contention among firefighters and the publics.

In fact, firefighters often come across hazardous materials when on the scene of a fire, which can be anything, according to Rapid City Fire officials.

“Any sort of chemical spill, gas release, unknown chemicals, anything like that,” said Captain Trapper Lappe, the Station Six Captain with the Rapid City Fire Department.

Many of the fire stations within RCFD specialize in something. Whether it’s the department’s Water Rescue Team at Station Three or the Hazardous Materials Team at Station Six.

In the case of last week, Station Six was called to assist in the fire to potentially look for any hazardous materials.

When trying to identify potential hazards, the hazmat teams uses a couple tactics to identify the hazards.

It starts with their sense of smell, sight or sound, but they also take a look at things like specific containers or other telling signs.

“The highway department requires that certain quantities of chemicals be placarded,” Captain Lappe said. “You’ll see them on the side of semi trucks, trailers on the side of buildings. You’ll see those with the diamond shapes. That’ll indicate that there’s possibly hazardous materials involved.”

While no cause of the Black Hawk structure fire has yet to be determined, Captain Lappe says the hazmat crew located and removed materials related to the cabinet making business, like stains and lacquer, with no certainty that they were the cause of the fire.

That fire raised a question as to what the public should look out for with their own health.

As for the public, Captain Lappe says that there’s a couple things to watch out for, including difficulty breathing.

“Respiratory difficulty is probably one of the biggest ones with a postfire incident, and I mean there could be some skin irritations as well,” Captain Lappe said.

Captain Lappe says that if you experience any of these symptoms after being involved or near a fire, you should talk to your doctor.

Categories: Local News, South Dakota News