CCRS prepares for I-26 affects


Photo by Brenda Sparks Courtesy of the Erwin Record
North Carolina Governor Mike Easley cuts the ribbon for the opening of the new I-26 corridor Tuesday. Approximately 2,500 people attended the ribbon-cutting ceremony.
By Abby Morris
Star Staff
amorris@starhq.com

   As Northeast Tennessee and Western North Carolina hope for increased commerce between the two areas with the opening of the final stage of Interstate 26, the Carter County Rescue Squad is preparing for another side effect that may result from the opening of the long-anticipated highway.
   "I-26 may have some impact on us," said Carter County Rescue Squad Director Terry Arnold. "There is a one or two mile stretch of I-26 that does go through the county. We bought a heavy duty truck to help serve that area. We're sending another rescue truck out there, and we're going to use the heavy duty truck for major incidents."
   The possibility of tractor trailer wrecks and chemical spills will increase with the new highway, Arnold said. To prepare for such incidents, the rescue squad has been sending some of its personnel for training. "We're sending people to school to become HazMat Techs (Hazardous Material Technicians)," Arnold said. "The biggest issue we've had in preparing for the opening of I-26 has been getting people to schools and training to get them the knowledge to handle these situations."
   Currently, there are seven qualified HazMat Techs who work with the rescue squad, and more are currently in training.
   According to David Nichols of the CCRS, Carter County needs 10 HazMat Techs to work with the rescue squad, six to work with the Elizabethton Fire Department, and three at each volunteer fire department in the county. "That's where we need to be at," Nichols said. "Having a fully trained HazMat team is something the Economic Development Commission can use to recruit industries."
   In addition to preparing for possible additional traffic through Carter County on I-26, Arnold said the rescue squad is also preparing for increased traffic from the Northern Connector road project once it is completed.
   Interstate 26 runs from Columbus, Ohio to Charleston, S.C.