Firefighters prepare for a foam attack during a live-fire exercise at Texas A&M. - Photos by Anton Riecher

Firefighters prepare for a foam attack during a live-fire exercise at Texas A&M.

Photos by Anton Riecher

The need to increase opportunities for industrial emergency responders to train was the important lesson that one visitor from Turkey derived from the 51st annual Industrial Fire Training School conducted in July at Texas A&M University.

Onur Jojar serves as a technical supervisor with Turkey’s state run oil company Türkiye Petrolleri Anonim Ortaklığı (TPAO).

“We have many different fire stations with many different kinds of fire fighting,” Jojar said. “We have to enlarge the number of training places in my country.”

Students enrolled for the 2013 training school conducted by the Texas Engineeering Extension Service (TEEX) numbered 724, with 234 guest instructors on hand. Beside Turkey, foreign countries represented included Brazil, Canada, Equatorial Guinea, Jamaica, Mexico, Nigeria, South Korea and the West Indies.

Jojar, a first-time visitor to TEEX, is a four-year veteran of his fire brigade. He also works as an engineer with the safety department at his refinery.

“We know this school is one of the best in the world at training,” Jojar said. “Some of my colleagues have already come here.”

Another first time visitor to TEEX was Anthony Roldan, a refinery operator and volunteer firefighter at Tesoro Corporation’s 97,000-barrels per day refinery in Los Angeles, CA. Roldan has been a volunteer for nearly 18 months.

“I joined because I like helping people,” Roldan said. “I do pretty well under pressure. And I like to be the go-to guy. I like the responsibility of being able to help someone else out.”

The refinery processes heavy crude from California’s San Joaquin Valley and Los Angeles Basin as well as imported crudes from South America and other international sources. The refinery manufactures gasoline, jet fuel, diesel fuels, petroleum coke and fuel oil.

Operating a refinery in Los Angeles gives Tesoro access to ample mutual aid, Roldan said.

“Level 1 and 2 are incidents we can handle inhouse,” he said. “Level 1 would be something small like a vapor release, something that can be controlled very easily. Level 2 would be more than that, say like some kind of spill under pressure as spelled out under OSHA regulations.”

Anything that qualifies as above Level 2 requires outside assistance, Roldan said.

Firefighters battle flames from a pipe rack prop at TEEX fire field. -

Firefighters battle flames from a pipe rack prop at TEEX fire field.

According to the Tesoro website, the last major fire at the Los Angeles refinery occurred in September 2009, putting a coker unit out of commission for several weeks.

“We had a fire team on it right away and luckily our guys were really well trained and worked together,” Roldan said.

He often trains as a volunteer firefighter on his days off from working as a refinery operator, he said.

“We have weekly fire drills every Wednesday and monthly drills as well,” Roldan said. “My supervisor is always nice enough to let us participate however long it takes. But we are operators first and then, if possible, our second role is fire fighting.”

The refinery has its own fire ground for conducting drills. However, it is small compared to what TEEX offers, Roldan said.

“This school is awesome,” he said. “It’s top of the line. When I’m working on one of the big props it makes me feel like I’m back in the refinery.”

Marcus Quinn, a laboratory technician at Marathon Petroleum’s Garyville, LA refinery, was still another first time visitor to TEEX. He has served three years on the fire brigade at the 522,000-barrels per day refinery.

“Being on the CERT (Community Emergency Response Team) is voluntary,” Quinn said. “A person can get a lot more education. That’s the main reason I joined, to get more hands on training.”

Ranked as the third largest in the U.S., the Garyville refinery provides the backbone of the mutual aid response available to industry in that area. Working with a variety of differently trained personnel at TEEX helps prepare a firefighter for mutual aid operations, Quinn said.

“Getting to know how other companies do things and getting familiar with different personnel who have different levels of training than I do is important,” he said.

As with Jojur and Roldan, Quinn said he was impressed with what TEEX had to offer.

“Everything is operated safely,” he said. “I like it out here.”