About the Office

The Mahoning County Hazardous Materials Response Agency was formed in the late 1980's in a cooperative agreement with the Board of Mahoning County Commissioners and The Mahoning County Fire Chiefs' Association.  A formal Policy Board, made up of representatives from local political entities, the Fire Chiefs' Association, and the Office of Emergency Management provide guidance and direction.

The Agency is made up of dedicated Firefighters that have stepped up to perform some of the most dangerous work in the Nation. They are on call 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. They all must be trained as Hazardous Waste Operations and Emergency Response Technicians and Weapons of Mass Destruction Technicians (OSHA 29 CFR 1910.120 and NFPA 472). They must also be certified in trench rescue and confined space rescue.  Many are also Emergency Medical Technicians.

Incidents for the Hazardous Materials Response Agency can range anywhere from assisting law enforcement at meth labs, containing leaks of toxic gas, and sampling white powder in mail.  They have extensive training in HazMat chemistry, product control, decontamination, rail car incidents, commercial vehicle incidents, radiological incidents, and air monitoring.

The Mahoning County Hazardous Materials Response Agency has its roots in events that occurred long before the formation of the team itself. The Youngstown/Mahoning Valley area being a center of industry and a major steel production location had its share of chemical hazards associated with its steel production. Early Youngstown Fire Department records show that “Chemical Trucks”, fire engines specially fitted to respond to HazMat incidents, were purchased and stationed at locations near the steel mills. 

The post-World War II American industry was filled with new products being made with new chemical technology and the phrase, “Better Living Through Chemistry” was the theme of that era. No one ever thought that this chemical revolution was unleashing not only a better quality of life, but also new ways to harm or kill innocent people. Places like Texas City, Texas and The Love Canal, New York area unveiled the ugly side of our “Better Living Through Chemistry” ways.
The book Silent Springs, written by Rachel Carson in 1962, was the benchmark for the Public Right To Know movement. This environmental movement expanded through the 1960s and on July 9th, 1970, President Richard Nixon signed the document that created the EPA and NOAA. Though this was a good start, events in the late 70s and early 80s solidified public sentiment on industrial hazards. Three Mile Island created public outrage at a company’s ability to lie to the public with governmental blessings. The movement also began to uncover hundreds of toxic dump sites like Love Canal. These sites were placed on governmental clean up lists. Four or five sites were even identified in Mahoning County. 
Theses “Superfund Sites” were just the tip of the iceberg. In the middle of the night on December 3, 1984, Union Carbide had a leak of Methyl Isocyanate in Bhopal, India that resulted in the death of 3,800 and the serious injury of thousands of more. Union Carbide assured the U.S. Government that such a leak could not occur here.  However, in December of 1985, Union Carbide has a similar but smaller leak of the same chemical in West Virginia. After that, Congress acted quickly and in 1985 the SARA Title III Act was signed into law. This act included public right to know laws, enforcement for EPA laws, set up local oversight or LEPC committees in each county, provided guidelines for community response to a toxic release and funding for that response which was the genesis for HazMat Teams.
In 1986 the Mahoning Country Hazardous Material Response Agency was formed by the Mahoning County Fire Chiefs and the Mahoning County Commissioners. SARA Title III money and seed money from BFI was used to build the team. In 1992, the team added confined space rescue to its capability. The team received some of the first Terrorism Response training given by the Federal Government in the late 1990s and has kept that capability current and updated.

The agency is a participating member in the Ohio Regional and State Emergency Response Plan and has members sit on the Ohio HazMat Team Technical Advisory Committee.