The wind spread a growing plume of fake chlorine gas from the site of a mock wreck Wednesday morning.
The chlorine cloud was simulated using smoke bombs, and the groans of victims in the spill came from volunteers feigning injuries in a full-scale hazardous materials training exercise.
The training scenario, involving 29 local, state, federal and private-sector agencies, included a simulated wreck on John Deere Parkway near Grovetown involving a passenger van and a truck carrying a chlorine tank that ruptured.
But not all the moans and groans were fake. Five Martinez-Columbia Fire Rescue firefighters were overcome with heat, and another injured his knee, said exercise coordinator Pam Tucker, Columbia County Emergency and Operations director.
"We've done these exercises in July and August," Tucker said, adding that fire officials opted not to have the firefighters wear full turnout gear on those occasions. "Today, because the weather was so much better and cooler, they decided to wear (the full turnout gear), do everything as they would in real life."
The primary goal of the exercise was to provide a large-scale training opportunity for the fire department's Hazardous Materials Response Team.
"(Training) is always impor-tant because we always find things we can improve on," said Martinez-Columbia Special Operations Chief Danny Kuhlmann, who oversees the haz-mat team.
"That's what the purpose of the drill is, to find out what we need to work on."
Kuhlmann said the haz-mat team tries to participate in large-scale exercises about every other year.
"We found out we've got some limitations," Kuhlmann said, adding that the department needs another tow vehicle to transport the three haz-mart trailers, dive team trailer and CERT trailer.
"I don't think the command post worked as well as it should have."
The exercise also gave hospitals a chance to test the new Community Decontamination Center with an influx of nearly 100 victims. Most of those simulated patients sought out medical treatment on their own after being near or hearing about the incident. After the January 2005 chlorine spill in Graniteville, many people in similar situations went to area hospitals, Tucker said.
Tucker, whose office organizes large training exercises at least once every three years, praised firefighters and haz-mat team members for knocking down the chlorine vapors and, using real wind data, getting ahead of the fictional chlorine cloud.
"I was very pleased with everybody," Tucker said, "especially the haz-mat team's ability to get up the decontamination tent and start treating patients so quickly. That is critical."
Nine volunteers acting as critically injured victims at the scene were decontaminated, then transferred to hospitals via ambulance.
A 10th "victim," who had severe burns, was airlifted for quicker treatment.
"Everybody stepped up," Tucker said. "Everybody worked together. Everybody knew their role and came out and did their role."
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