Members of the Pinellas County Hazmat team learn how to detect a meth lab during a training session for the Pinellas County Hazmat Team, comprised of members from five Pinellas fire departments, at the National Forensic Science Center in Largo. LUKE JOHNSON/STAFF
Derek Raymer, with the City of Seminole Fire & Rescue, scans a meth lab for hazardous materials during a training session for the Pinellas County Hazmat Team Thursday. LUKE JOHNSON/STAFF
This mock mobile meth lab was set up in the back of a pickup for a training session for the Pinellas County Hazmat Team Thursday. LUKE JOHNSON/STAFF
LARGO — Members of the Pinellas County Hazardous Materials Team underwent training Thursday to help them deal with methamphetamine laboratories.
While the 124-strong unit, made up of firefighters from five local fire departments, has received training on the hazards of such operations in the classroom, Thursday marked the first time team members had the opportunity to see what the labs might look like, whether they are in the back of pickup camper shell or in a bathroom in a home.
The mock scenarios were set up in an 85,000-square-foot warehouse where the National Forensic Science Technology Center routinely instructs law enforcement agents and members of the military how to conduct crime scene investigations. In addition to allowing the hazardous materials team to use the warehouse, the forensic technology center also provided chemists for the training session.
Pinellas County has seen a meth lab here and there, but it is not considered a major problem. Even still, all it takes is one entry for a firefighter to get hurt.
“You can go to one meth lab and get injured,” said John Curran, a lieutenant with St. Petersburg Fire and Rescue, who conducted a session on the bodily harm a meth lab explosion can inflict. “So if you don’t recognize what you’re dealing with, the hazards are really high.”