NORTH LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — The North Little Rock Fire Department is prepared do more than put out fires.
They’re now equipped to neutralize threats like Ebola.
Thanks to city funding and grants, the North Little Rock Fire Department said the city’s one of the safest places in the state in the event of a natural disaster or terrorist attack.
“You used to think that the only time that you saw a fire truck is if something is on fire,” NLR Asst. Fire Chief Beau Buford said.
The North Little Rock Fire Department is prepared for a lot more than that.
“One of the things we try to think about is what is the worst thing that can happen in the city,” Buford said.
The departments’ Haz-Mat and Special Operations teams received over $320k over the last two years to respond to everything from natural disasters to biological threats.
“One of the things, we’re in the middle of the tornado alley. If our city were affected by a tornado or the floods like we just had, our teams can go out and help the citizens,” Buford said.
Their mission is to be proactive and not reactive.
"We have the fourth largest hub of the Union Pacific Railroad. So, that means there's more hazardous materials coming through North Little Rock, probably than any of the other cities in Arkansas,” Buford said.
“We also have some of the biggest truck stops and things in North Little Rock. And lots of times, diesel fuel will spill everywhere, so the team will go out and contain the diesel spills to make the drains and things safe,” Buford said.
This year, over $87k is to go toward the Haz-Mat team.
They’re also hoping to receive grant funding for additional body armor, something they hope they won’t be needed.
“The fire department, along with the police department, would be able to go out and help citizens at the same time. Something, even five years ago, we never would have thought of in the fire service,” Buford said.
The firefighters receive continuous training to keep them sharp on these specialized rescues.
They also can deploy to other cities and states when these services are needed.