PAnews.com, Port Arthur, Texas

March 25, 2013

PA firefighter achieves Texas Task Force 1

Brooke Crum
The Port Arthur News

PORT ARTHUR — It took Fire Capt. Troy Irvine about eight years to reach his ultimate career goal.

The Port Arthur firefighter spent nearly a decade enduring emergency services response training while simultaneously fighting fires and containing situations such as the July pipeline explosion at the Chevron Philips facility to become a member of the Texas Task Force 1.

And sometimes, he said, he just felt like giving up altogether.

But with his wife’s nudging and his department’s support, Irvine achieved his career goal. He owes a lot to the fire department and the city for accomplishing this achievement, he said.

“Troy is one of our go-to guys,” said Fire Chief Larry Richard. “Whatever you ask him to do, he does.”

The urban search and rescue team recently accepted Irvine as its one of its hazardous materials specialists. The Port Arthur City Council honored Irvine’s acceptance into the program, which means he could be deployed at any moment to a major disaster event anywhere in the world. But he must first go through a year of specialized task force training.

Should such a situation arise – like Hurricane Katrina or the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks – Irvine would have four hours to travel to College Station to join one of the Texas Task Force’s three teams.

Altogether, 270 women and men constitute the FEMA-coordinated National Urban Search and Rescue team – just one out of 28, according to its website.

The task force responds to every aspect of disastrous events. When Hurricane Rita struck, the task force sent a team to Port Arthur to help muddle through the rubble, Irvine said. When the devastating earthquake shocked Haiti in 2010, a task force went into the epicenter of the disaster and lasted on its own supplies for two weeks.

Since its first deployment in 1998, the Texas Task Force 1 has responded to at least one major disaster event each year. From the collapse of the World Trade Center in 2001 to the Haiti earthquake in 2010, Irvine could ship off to anywhere in the world at a moment’s notice. And his wife and six children do not mind, he said.

“My wife pushed me to keep trying,” Irvine said. “And the kids think it’s awesome.”

The application process for the task force was stringent, Irvine said, and it required training in several areas of handling hazardous materials – something Irvine has become quite familiar with here in Port Arthur with its large industrial, petrochemical complex.

“I wouldn’t be able to do it without the department,” he said.

Battalion Chief of Training Mike Free credited Irvine with working with the department to get every member trained in a course called “Save Our Own,” which demonstrates how to prevent the deaths of firefighters on duty. He has also been instrumental in instructing department staff in dealing with explosive devices, arson investigations and even diving, Free said.

As a Texas Commission on Fire Protection and Texas Law Enforcement instructor, Irvine has been able to provide in-house training whenever the department needs.

“He’s always there for you,” Free said.

Irvine joined the Port Arthur Fire Department in August 1999 and was promoted to engineer in 2008. He became a captain in 2010 and currently serves on the hazardous materials team, high-angle confined space rescue team and dive team. Irvine is one of six on-shift arson investigators and sometimes acts as the department’s public information officer or a paramedic for the Port Arthur Police Department SWAT team.

email: bcrum@panews.com

twitter: @broocrum