By Paul Kurtz

CAMDEN, N.J. (CBS) — A series of fires in abandoned buildings in Camden last year has led state officials to develop a pilot program to locate and identify hazardous materials left behind in vacant buildings.

As he surveyed an abandoned building on Haddon Avenue, Fire Captain Manny Martinez immediately realized that his squad would take a defensive posture if the building was on fire.

But Camden firefighters will have much more information before going in now thanks to pilot program known as “Boots on the Ground.”

Department of Environmental Protection says over the summer, a team of investigators identified 31 vacant buildings and cataloged their dangerous contents in a software program for first responders.

“So now every single time a dispatcher gets a 911 call, they can pull up the location, identify it’s an abandoned building, identify all the risks associated with it, and let the police, the firefighters, the emergency response personnel, and EMT know about it before they get to the building,” Martinez explained.

The program was developed in response to a string of abandoned building fires in Camden last year. The DEP is hoping to expand the program to other communities.

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