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Local Rescue Team Receives Critical Gas Detectors

RESCUE TEAMEASTHAMPTON, Mass (WGGB) — A dangerous job for local first responders got just a little bit safer Friday. The Western Massachusetts Technical Rescue Team received three specialized gas detectors from Columbia Gas of Massachusetts.

It’s life or death cliff rescues like one in Erving last month that saved a hiker’s life that about 80 area first responders specialize in. That’s why having the proper equipment is critical.

“We meter every single confined space that we go into without exception,” team member and South Hadley Fire District 2 Assistant Chief Bill Selkirk said.

Now three new combustible gas indicators, each costing about $1500, will help keep rescuers and the people they help, safe. The indicators were presented to the team by Columbia Gas of Massachusetts Friday. Paul Lamb of manufacturer Sensit conducted training with team members.

“It has four gas capability so at the same time it is also looking for carbon monoxide, checking oxygen levels, and it does have the capability for hydrogen sulfide, or sewer gas,” Lamb said.

It also detects methane gas. Ordinarily, the sophisticated devices are not easy to obtain for local fire departments.

“The nice part is if you have natural gas lighter than air, you can put it up to the ceiling and test it or put it down in a hole and test it,” Selkirk said.

Lamb explained that when the detector sense gas “the tick starts going off. It will start increasing increasing as they are bringing this along looking for the particular piping leak that they are trying to find, so it walks them right to it,” he said.

When rescuers are deep in a trench, digging through a collapsed building, or cornered on a cliff, knowing what gases are present, can make or break a successful rescue.

“They (gases) can kill you for one thing if you don’t do the right thing,” Selkirk said. “If you have low oxygen you could pass out in a confined space or ditch and if there is methane that could be in there from many different sources or propane for that matter. You never know what could be in there.”

The western Massachusetts team is divided into three groups that cover from Pittsfield to Springfield to Greenfield and just about everywhere in between.

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