Joint Disaster Drill Prepares Local First Responders

Crews from Wichita Falls and Sheppard Air Force Base were called out to what they assumed was just another routine dumpster fire.

Capt. Tim Pierson, with the Wichita Falls Fire Department's Safety & Training Division says, "they weren't privy to any of this information other than we were going to have an exercise."

In this scenario they were told it was a large event with more than 20,000 people attending, and when they began to put the fire out a mock bomb went off, followed by another.

Emergency crews were suddenly involved in the worst case scenario.

The mock bomb was to be handled as a dirty bomb, one that includes radioactive material. When fire fighters found that out, they had to change tactics quickly.

Capt. Pierson says, "This is not like a structure fire where we go rushing in, when something like this happens we're going to step back and figure out what's going on."

As crews got dressed to handle the radioactive situation, the victims of the blast waited to be treated. The scene was gruesome and disturbing, much like the images we saw from the Boston Marathon Bombing. Organizers say preparing for an explosion at a large event is imperative, now more than ever.

Jeremy Kirk, an Emergency Management Specialist at Sheppard Air Force Base says, "Hotter 'n Hell is the largest sanctioned bike ride in the country, and this will definitely help in our planning for a large gathering of people."

The exercise was also designed to help city and Sheppard responders work together in disaster situations. As the scenario played out, crews decontaminated victims and prepped them to be sent to hospitals. Organizers say the crews proved they can handle such a disaster here.

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