Firefighters are obscurred by the flames from Brayton's chemical complex project. - Photo by Anton Riecher.

Firefighters are obscurred by the flames from Brayton's chemical complex project.

Photo by Anton Riecher.

At Phillips 66, emergency response planning is a function of the company’s Crisis Management and Emergency Response department. Ami Van Nostrand, an emergency response specialist, helps maintain that system.

“My main focus is on fire protection, everything from creating fire preplans and answering code related questions, to helping with the design of new systems to protect our growing assets,” Van Nostrand said.

Van Nostrand, a fire protection and safety engineering graduate of Oklahoma State University, attends the Phillips 66 corporate fire school every year. She has also attended the annual summer industrial fire school conducted at Brayton Fire Training Field in Texas.

But this year she wanted to round out her education on fire foam and storage tank fire fighting. To that end, she found herself attending the Phos-Chek Hellfighter U foam fire school at Brayton Fire Training Field.

“That’s a specialty you really don’t get with other fire schools,” she said.

Hellfighter U drew 115 students for its December 2016 school at Brayton, the second of two held last year. School director Frank Bateman said the four-day school was a success, even though the increasing enrollment sometimes leaves him concerned.

“I was worried that we would have difficulty getting everything accomplished in some areas,” Bateman said. “That didn’t happen. Everybody had an equal opportunity to train. Everyone got to participate in the most difficult projects.”

Beside students from across the U.S., Hellfighter U drew emergency responders from Canada, South Korea and Brazil. As usual, Bateman did no advertising to fill the class rolls.

“I send out invitations to my good customers and give them first dibs on the available slots,” he said. “That generally fills the bulk of the class openings.”

For decades, National Foam conducted an annual flammable liquid firefighting school at Brayton. In 2000, Bateman joined the company as a training manager, instituting a curriculum overhaul. The new program became so successful that it expanded to three times a year.

In 2014, Bateman joined Phos-Chek as it expanded its product line to include C6-based AFFF and AR-AFFF ATC foam concentrates effective against Class B fuel fires. Establishing a new fire foam school in the tradition of Bateman’s previous schools for 3M and National Foam became an important part of the marketing plan.

The hallmark of Bateman’s fire foam schools is his staff of volunteer instructor which he refers to as “The Cadre.” The December school drew 35 instructors, including John Briones Jr., fire chief of Valero’s Wilmington refinery in Los Angeles.

Briones brought seven firefighters from California, including two Los Angeles County responders. The reason for the lengthy trip to Texas is simple – California does not permit live-fire training of its firefighters.

“This is down to earth, hands on training in the use of foam,” Briones said. “And in our industry we have to use foam to take care of the problem.”

Also visiting from California, Tim Machado with Valero’s Benicia, CA, refinery is a supervising operator but not an emergency responder. It is part of his job description to attend the annual fire training in Texas to familiarize himself with incident command and use of fire foam.

“I attended an advanced tactical class here two years ago,” Machado said. “It was a really good class but more geared toward IC. Now I’m getting to see more about foam application.”

He said he is amazed by the depth of experience available at Hellfighter U.

“The instructors bring a lot of stuff to the table, especially regarding foam and dry chemical application,” Machado said. “They’ve covered a lot of stuff that you never really think about. It’s given me a lot more tools for my toolbox.

Not all the instructors attending Hellfighter U specialize in industrial emergency response. Bruce Pollock is a line captain with the Milburn (NJ) Fire Department. Milburn is a suburban township without major industry.

Still, the municipal and industrial fire service often crosses over in emergencies, he said.

“I like to learn,” Pollock said. “I like to learn about anything I can that involves the fire service.

Chris Broussard, a recently promoted captain on the emergency response team at the Lubrizol Corporation chemical plant in Deer Park, TX, said that attending the Hellfighter was an opportunity that came with the promotion.

He said the most interesting experience the school offered him was a chance to see what high-expansion foam would do in the limited confines of Brayton’s ship fire simulation project.

“It was only two gallons of concentrate but we were waist deep in foam in the engine room,” Broussard said.

Kelly Alden is an operator at a delayed coker at HollyFrontier’s 52,000 barrels-a-day refinery in Cheyenne, WY. He is also a volunteer on the refinery’s emergency response team. Alden previously attended NFPA 1081 classes at Brayton in 2012 and 2013 and two HollyFrontier corporate fire schools.

Serving on the ERT can sometimes be difficult to balance against the obligations of a full-time operator, Alden said. His plans to attend Hellfighter U last year had to be cancelled because of work, he said.

“It’s always busy at the unit,” he said.

However, the refinery does provide a fire training ground. And HollyFrontier responders take advantage of a propane tree project used for training by the Cheyenne Fire Department, he said.

“Once a year we train with the Cheyenne Fire Department at their facility,” Alden said.

Bateman said a quick tally of the years of experience represented at this year’s school showed nearly 1,000 years of experience among the instructors alone.

“It was somewhere around 4,000 years of experience among the students,” he said.