The Tools

PrintPrintEmailEmail Hazardous Materials Units

Modern technology has brought great benefits to human life, and also great dangers. In 1945 New York City’s fire department formed the nation’s first fire, gas, and chemical unit in response to the threat of attack during World War II. Its preparation proved crucial in 1949, when a truck carrying chemicals exploded in the crowded Holland Tunnel. Radiation training was added during the Cold War. This unit has since become the model for hazmat squads across the country.

A Step Too Far

In 1965 the FDNY purchased the Super Pumper, the most powerful land-based apparatus ever developed. It was capable of shooting 8,800 gallons of water per minute (still less than the big fireboats). It was the size of a large semi-truck, however, which made it difficult to navigate narrow city streets, and it needed special tenders—“satellite trucks”—to help it operate. Although it performed well at a number of fires, it was eventually deemed too complicated and expensive and was retired from service in 1982.