Danny Forbes carries two important titles at the Eastman Chemical plant in Texas City, TX. As team manager, he is in charge of plant operations at night and on weekends. As fire captain with the plant’s emergency response team, his responsibilities are around the clock.
“I’ve worked for Eastman 23 years,” Forbes said. “I’ve been on the ERT for 21 years.”
Forbes is one of 231 guest instructors on hand for the 53rd Industrial Fire School conducted by the Texas AandM Engineering Extension Service (TEEX) in July 2015 at College Station, TX. The school attracted nearly 620 students who work as emergency personnel at their plants or refineries. Twenty-six states and seven countries were represented.
For the last seven years Forbes has been an instructor on the tank and dike project or “prop,” the largest of many full scale simulations built specifically for industrial fire training. The prop consists of one 30-foot diameter open tank and two 12-foot diameter open tanks. It also simulates various dike fires and other critical exposures.
“It’s a good prop because you have both pressure fire and pool fires,” Forbes said. “We also get to use foam and master streams.”
To extinguish the prop requires a coordinated effort by teams of firefighters working together.
“The students always have to work on performing as a team,” Forbes said. “These students are all from different locations and aren’t used to working together.”
Steve Ellis, a research technician at the Shell Technology Center in Houston, is a students attending the school. He is also an engine operator on the emergency response team.
A veteran of previous schools at TEEX, Ellis has first-hand experience with the special hazard prop, the pump alley prop, the bulk storage fire prop, the tank and dike prop and the structural burn project.
Industrial fire fighting usually involves exterior emergencies. However, Ellis said the toughest prop for him at TEEX is the structural burn project, a giant smokehouse built to simulate interior fire fighting.
“At my site, we have 55 separate buildings to protect,” Ellis said. “It is part pilot plant and part research facility. So interior fire fighting is a big part of what we train for.”
Unlike Ellis, King Akines with PCS Phophate in White Springs, FL, has never attended the industrial fire school. The trip to Texas is the first he has made to any fire training facility.
Akines said he is most impressed with the attention that instructors pay to firsttime students.
“The teachers are really hands on,” Akines said. “They don’t leave your side. They take their time to make sure the beginners have acquired what they need. It’s a great process.”
He said the most challenging props for him are the multi-level projects such as the loading terminal and the rail car loading rack.
“It teaches you how to fight the fire while keeping it off your fellow firefighters,” Akines said. “It helps protect the team and whoever needs rescue.”
The fire brigade at PCS is volunteer, not mandatory, he said.
“At my job everybody is like family,” Akines said. “I would want to train to save a co-worker just as I expect they would train to save me.”
Ten firefighters from in and around Painesville, OH, were on the student list at TEEX. Joshua Bregy with Lubrizol said the Painesville contingency included instructors, plant employees and responders with area fire departments.
It was Bregy’s first time to attend the industrial fire school although he had taken his NFPA 1081 industrial fire training at TEEX. Training at TEEX can be as intense as it is challenging, he said.
“Any time you have to actually touch the equipment, it starts getting complicated,” Bregy said.
James Whitford with Potash Corp. in Aurora, NC, said that as much as he loves his home state he is always happy to have the chance to train at TEEX. The latest fire school marked Whitford’s fourth visit to Texas for training.
“Our plant is big enough that we have our own fire brigade,” Whitford said. “We all train in hazmat and technical rescue. We even have EMTs on site.”
The fire props at TEEX “always put your skills to the test,” he said.
Andrew Lamb of Kingston, Jamaica, attended his second consecutive industrial fire school. Employed by J. Wray and Nephew, Ltd., a rum distiller, Lamb brought nine other Jamaican firefighters this year, of which all but one works for Wray.
“We have six people going through NFPA 1081 exterior, three going through the LPG course and I am here for fire brigade leadership,” Lamb said.
The type of training that TEEX offers is unavailable in Jamaica or throughout the Caribbean, he said.
“I always look forward to trying the new props,” Lamb said.
None of the students got the chance to try TEEX’s newest prop, the railroad transportation emergency project. Three overturned railroad cars simulate a freight train derailment, complete with burning tank car.
The project, which was test burned during the industrial school, is designed to provide realistic training in fire scenarios involving crude oil shipped by rail. A large pool fire is ignited along a route that actually passes under one of the overturned rail cars.
Plans call for a fourth rail car to be positioned to further block access and visibility at the scene. The railroad crude oil spill training program will be added to the curriculum this fall.