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PEF fire protection specialist first on scene of Thruway accident with fuel leak puts specialized training to use

By KATE MOSTACCIO

In the course of his four and a half years of state service, PEF Fire Protection Specialist 1 Joseph Marini has received training on how to deal with hazardous materials incidents, including plugging and patching spills, and he knows what to do if faced with a hazmat situation.

Returning to Rochester on July 11 after a standby assignment on Long Island for Tropical Storm Fay, Marini was nearly home and didn’t expect to have to put those skills to use but as he reached Exit 45 on the New York State Thruway his “right place at the right time moment” came.

“I went to get off the exit to go home and to my surprise there was a tractor-trailer in the way,” he said. “It was jackknifed on the right shoulder and in the ditch, blocking the right lane, the shoulder and sticking part-way into the left lane.”

Marini arrived on scene before emergency responders, finding only the uninjured driver and a man who had seen the whole thing and stopped, but who soon left as he was unable to render assistance. Neither had called 911 and Marini made the call himself.

“I put my vehicle in a blocking position and put my traffic safety vest on,” Marini said. “I found out what was going on and asked if anybody had called 911 yet. At that point, I called 911 and informed dispatch where the accident was. As I was on the phone, I walked around the scene and I noticed both fuel tanks were leaking diesel fuel.”

Marini carries some equipment on his truck to deal with leaking fuel tanks but unfortunately, the kit he had on hand wasn’t the proper size for the tractor-trailer.

“But I also carry a snow shovel so I took some loose soil to build a dam to keep the diesel from going any further,” he said.

That’s when the State Police and the Fishers Fire Department began to arrive on scene. Marini was able to brief them on the leaking fuel tanks and the measures he had taken to stem the spread of the leak.

He was also met with a few familiar faces from the state’s fire academy.

“I knew a couple firemen that got off the truck,” he said. “I talked to the fire department and gave them tips about using wooden wedges to slow the fuel leak. We also built up the dam more to slow the leak. Once they felt they were good, I headed home.”

For Marini, this was the first time he was able to put his skills to use in the community during an emergency he wasn’t called to but happened upon outside of work.

“It genuinely feels great to use the training that I have,” he said. “It was an, ‘All right, let’s go to work situation,’ for me, not a, ‘Holy crap, what do I do?’ like it might be for someone else. It’s one of those things I practice time and time again.

“It’s nice to use those skills and it felt great being in the right place at the right time and to do some environmental protection,” he said. “Thankfully, there were no injuries and I didn’t have to use any of my EMT training.”