Durham Hazmat one of few crews in state using new techniques to decontaminate gear

DURHAM, N.C. (WTVD) -- Durham Fire-Rescue Hazardous Materials Team is leading the way in using new and existing equipment to decontaminate surfaces that may have been exposed to COVID-19.

Firefighters suit up in Tyvek hazmat gear to spray all surfaces with chlorine dioxide.

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"Chlorine dioxide has been shown in multiple studies and by multiple federal agencies to kill the COVID-19 virus," said Ryan Campbell with the Durham Fire Department.

To clean an entire firehouse, he says that it can be done by mixing packets of chlorine dioxide with water in a cup that sets off a gas aroma. The cleaning and ventilation process can take up to 5 hours.

Durham firefighters are wearing more donated masks made by individuals and local businesses.

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"We're trying to get 1,200. We're about halfway there," said Durham Fire Chief Robert Zoldos. "And that will give all our people, about 400 on-duty personnel three masks a piece."

Soon Durham Fire will be making its own N95 masks with the purchase of 3D mask-making machines.

"We're going to do five-a-day, seven-days-a-week, said Captain Don Gross. "Basically within four hours, you can have a mask."

Durham Fire Department also purchased two $300 ovens and installed them in the back of a truck to kill viruses on Personal Protective Equipment. Campbell says crews will put PPE in the oven and turn up the heat to 167 degrees-- in the event there's a gear shortage.

Durham Hazmat team says it's one of the few agencies in the state using these techniques.

On Thursday, they showed them off to Raleigh and Cary fire departments, and other emergency management teams and transportation personnel in Durham.

The money for the equipment is coming out of their budget for operating expenses. The Deputy Chief for the Durham Fire Department said it costs $1,000 for the ovens and materials to put it in the SUV, printers run about $650 and the printing filaments cost a couple hundred dollars.The homemade sprayers cost the department about $85 in parts.
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