Three generations of Frank Bateman’s family attended the latest Hellfighter U fire foam school held in December. The two older generations, Frank, founder and director of Hellfighhter U, and his son, Joe, have made a career of the industrial fire service.
Frank pleads guilty to trying to persuade grandson Sean, the youngest Bateman on hand, to follow into the family business.
“The greatest compliment, in my opinion, that offspring can pay their parents or grandparents is to think that what they did throughout their life was worthy enough to consider for themselves,” Frank Bateman said.
For several decades, Bateman has conducted as many as three foam fire schools annually at Brayton Fire Training Field in Texas. In 2014, Bateman joined ICL Performance Products as Class B foam marketing and business development specialist. ICL’s Phos-Chek has long been established as a leader in sales of fire retardants and Class A foam.
What followed was establishment of a new foam fire school at Brayton, Bateman’s Hellfighter U. Among the cadre of volunteer instructors carried over from Bateman’s previous school was Joe Bateman, fire chief at Valero’s Benicia Refinery in northern California.
“When I was younger I never paid attention to what my father did,” Joe said. “Then I started working in a refinery 23 years ago. And I became interested in emergency response. Because of my father, I knew a lot about the equipment that industrial firefighters use.”
Joe got the bug. He attended the annual summer industrial fire school at Brayton in 1989 and began working his way up in the refinery’s emergency response team, first as an instructor, then a captain and, ultimately, fire chief.
“With the help of my knowledge of foam, I’ve had the opportunity to connect with municipal firefighters all over the country and begin branching out into other areas,” Joe said.
For example, Joe serves with the California Governor’s Office of Emergency Services with regard to emergency response to railroad incidents.
“It all started because I knew about foam,” Joe said. “Foam was the first thing anyone thought about when it came to crude railcar response. People started coming to me and asking ‘How much foam do we need if a train derails into the Feather River?’”
Frank said his son’s career path is a source of pride.
“He is looked upon in his community as a specialist, as somebody you need to know,” Frank said. “His refinery sends him to Sacramento to negotiate sticky topics such as crude by rail. It makes me as proud as I can be.”
Despite Frank’s often stated desire to have three generations of Batemans teaching at Hellfighter U, Joe said he has never pushed the issue with his son.
“My father said ‘When Sean turns 18 we need to get him down here,’” Joe said. “I threw the suggestion out to Sean and he said yes. The opportunity came up and we made it happen.”
Actually, Sean first attended one of his grandfather’s foam schools at Brayton at age eight in 2006. And even though his father set him up with his own air pack, Sean said he was not really fascinated with fire fighting at that early age.
“I was young and I wasn’t really into it,” Sean said. “But when my father told me I could attend the school and go through all the classes when I was 18, I said ‘Why not?’”
Meanwhile, Frank has another grandchild who entered the Navy in December and plans to specialize in damage control.
“That’s mostly fire fighting,” Frank said.
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