Here’s why you may see dozens of emergency response vehicles at Sumas border Wednesday

Residents and travelers in the Sumas area Wednesday, Oct. 16, will likely see a number of emergency responders from various agencies and possibly even a little light smoke near the Sumas/Huntingdon Port of Entry.

But don’t be alarmed, the Whatcom County Sheriff’s Office says.

All the activity is just part of the joint U.S./Canadian Hazardous Materials Emergency Drill the sheriff’s office has been planning for more than a year.

“Our office is dedicated to making Whatcom County the safest in Washington state through excellence in public safety and have undertaken this exercise to build on the cross-border efforts that have been a hallmark of cooperation between law enforcement, fire, emergency medical services and emergency management on both sides of our shared border,” Sheriff Bill Elfo said in a release about the exercise.

The drill is supposed to last from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. Wednesday.

Though most of the activity during the drill will not be visible to those not involved and there will be no interruptions to the flow of traffic across the border, the release said there will a large amount of emergency response equipment in the area, and some light smoke may be visible in the morning.

More than 50 agencies and 200 participants from both sides of the border are expected to participate in more than 20 locations during the drill.

The main purpose, according to the release, is to learn to better integrate emergency response from both countries in the event of an actual emergency.

Listen to our daily briefing:

“This drill is a way for our personnel at the City of Abbotsford and Abbotsford Fire Rescue Services to continue to sharpen our emergency preparedness apparatus and public safety capacity,” Abbotsford Mayor Henry Braun said in the release.

Last year, the Whatcom Country Sheriff’s Office’s Division of Emergency Management hosted a similar cross-border exercise, practicing for what would happen if Mount Baker erupted and sent a lahar down the Nooksack River valley.

David Rasbach joined The Bellingham Herald in 2005 and now covers breaking news. He has been an editor and writer in several western states since 1994.