Ask Frank Bateman of ICL Phos-Chek to describe himself in one word. The answer he gives is no surprise – “foam.”
“I’m proud to say I have a few friends who would recognize me” from that information alone, said Bateman, director of the semi-annual Hellfighter U foam fire training school.
More than 60 industrial firefighters from across the United States attended the first Hellfighter U fire school of 2016 in February at the Brayton Fire Training Field in College Station, TX. Instructors for the school were drawn from Bateman’s long establish “cadre” of professionals who volunteer.
“It’s a group of senior firefighting professionals who donate their time and receive nothing for it but a feeling of accomplishment for preparing firefighters for what they may face in the future,” Bateman said.
Bateman’s 40-year romance with teaching about firefighting foam began in the 1970s at the University of Nevada, Reno, Fire Science Academy, then located in the nearby community of Stead. He then graduated to teaching about foam for 3M and Williams Fire & Hazard Control.
For 15 years he supervised the annual Kidde foam schools conducted at Brayton. Eventually, that school would expand to three sessions a year.
Now, after a brief retirement, Bateman has returned to the fire foam game, this time sponsored by Phos-Chek.
“The marketplace is such that the right product with the right performance can break into the competition with foams that are good if your foam is better,” Bateman said. “And we believe ours is. By performance, we’ve shown that it is. We’re pretty happy with what we’ve got.”
Ed Zupko of Malvern, PA, has been a member of the Bateman’s Cadre for 12 years. His fulltime gig is with American Aerial Equipment.
“Frank and I have been close for quite a lot of years,” Zupko said. “I’ve always helped him with the school. I’ve loved it since I started.”
None of the “cadre” really worried about the “changing of the colors” when the school became affiliated with Phos-Chek, he said.
“They came because of Frank,” Zupko said.
Cadre instructor Kelli Allen works fulltime as a battalion chief with the Broward County, FL, Sheriff’s Office Division of Fire Rescue. She traces her history with the “Cadre” back 16 years.
“When it started out, it was much more of an industrial thing than it ever was municipal,” Allen said. “But there are so many municipalities now that are intimately involved with industrial operations. Whether you have a refinery, storage facility or a power plant in your jurisdiction, there are so many times we cross between municipal and industrial evolutions.”
Hellfighter U is an opportunity for these entities to meet, work together and understand how each other works, she said.
Bateman said the opportunity to again lead a fire school gave him pause to think. He admits that he is old enough to collect “Social Security plus.”
“I thought, ‘Wow, what a challenge,’” Bateman said. “Then I thought, ‘God, do I have enough energy to do it again?’”
Bateman and his Cadre left a positive impression on his latest class of students. The firefighters were interviewed away from the Brayton Fire Field during a private banquet given to honor those graduating.
Aaron Love, in charge of the emergency response team at the 30,500 barrels per day Big West Oil refinery in North Salt Lake City, UT, said Hellfighter U will become a part of his ERT’s annual training curriculum. He brought 10 firefighters and plans to send another 20 before the end of the year.
“I’ve been to other advanced flammable liquid schools and this one is the best,” Love said. “It’s the most diversified. We’ve gone over extinguishers, hose handling, the foams and everything. I think my crew is better prepared for the task ahead at work.”
Another student, Oscar Rodriguez, works as a captain with Capstone Fire, a private contractor providing on-site fire, life safety and confined space rescue services to industry. His ERT protects a power plant in Escondido, CA.
“Some of our guys went through Bateman’s school a couple of years back,” Rodriquez said. “They loved the innovations in the training and the props. The closest we have back home for training is fire pits and stuff like that. Here we are able to contain flammable liquids. You can be aggressive but also tactical.”
Like Rodriquez, Daren Rohde, a lieutenant with the Tacoma, WA, Fire Department, is a first time visitor to Brayton Fire Field. The department’s jurisdiction includes an oil refinery and distribution center across the street from its training facility.
U.S. Oil and Refining Company paid for Rohde and another lieutenant to attend Hellfighter U. The lieutenants plan to use what they have learned to develop a training scenario for Tacoma.
“I’ve been through a refinery before but did not really understand what would happen in the case of a catastrophic event,” Rohde said. “Teamwork is essential. You need to know how to work together to block a valve or push the fire away in a specific direction. The coordination of all this is the biggest thing of all.”
The instruction provided ranks as outstanding, he said.
“It’s almost one-on-one instruction,” Rohde said. “The instructors are hands-on. They are right there next to you, pointing out what you did right or wrong. I think these instructors do a great job developing a person-to-person relationship.”