For most industrial emergency responders, live-fire training is a treat reserved for occasional visits to Brayton Fire Training Field in Texas or the state fire academies back home. But at Valero Energy’s 195,000 barrel-per-day refinery in Memphis, Tennessee, training with live fire is the norm, not the exception.
Valero Memphis operates its own fire field on site, complete with live-fire training props, said Nick Fazzio, chief of the Valero Memphis emergency response team.
“We’re really lucky that we can do live fire training in our refinery Fazzio said. “We like to take advantage of it.”
Once relatively common, refineries with on-site training for emergency responders are becoming harder to find. Most have long since been taken over by the necessities of expanding production with only limited property available.
“We bring the Memphis municipal firefighters into our facility to train,” as well as bring them with us to TEEX to give them exposure to the process fires, Fazzio said. “We do quite a bit of flammable liquids training with them.”
Being able to do live-fire training at home makes it easier to send people to the annual corporate school in Texas without leaving himself shorthanded, he said.
“I can rotate my guys through the corporate school,” Fazzio said. “I don’t have to send all of them at once.”
Besides live-fire training, responders also receive instruction on handling hazardous materials, confined space and high angle rescue and pump operations, he said.
“We’re even bringing in doctors from the regional medical trauma center,” Fazzio said. “They’re doing a two-hour session on bleeding control for us.”
The Memphis Valero emergency response team consists of 88 volunteers who hold fulltime jobs in refinery operations. The refinery’s single fire station is equipped with a Ferrara pumper and a quick attack rescue truck outfitted to handle hazmat and rescue emergencies.
Based in San Antonio, Valero Energy is the largest independent petroleum refinery worldwide, operating 15 refineries with a combined capacity of 3.1 billion gallons a year. The company also owns 11 ethanol plants with a combined production of 1.45 billion gallons a year.
Most Valero refineries are staffed by volunteer responders. The volunteers “are the folks who want to be there,” Fazzio said.
Some responders cannot get enough of it, he said, even participating in their volunteer fire departments at home.
“They have it in their heart,” Fazzio said.