Article Archive
In Rita's Wake
Industrial Fire World Rushes Fuel To Williams Fire & Hazard Control
Vol. 20 No. 6

Industrial Fire World Magazine led a group of Bryan-College Station businesses in an impromptu effort Sept. 25 to rush badly needed fuel and food to industrial firefighters protecting Gulf Coast refineries in the wake of Hurricane Rita.

Williams Fire & Hazard Control, located near Beaumont in Mauriceville, provides professional fire fighting expertise, equipment and manpower to industrial facilities nationwide dealing in bulk flammable liquids. During Tropical Storm Allison in June 2001 Williams F&HC successfully extinguished a 270-foot diameter gasoline storage tank near New Orleans, the largest such extinguishment on record.

"These responders rushed back to their posts immediately after Rita passed," said David White, Industrial Fire World's publisher. "Refineries that these responders were committed to protect experienced extensive flooding due to Rita."

Williams F&HC has standing commitments to protect many Gulf Coast refineries. However, Rita forced company personnel to evacuate their headquarters and move their families to safety inland. Then, taking up a position at a roadside park midway between San Antonio and Houston, the firefighters waited.

Once the storm passed, the firefighters deployed to the various refineries to which they had been assigned. Many of the Beaumont-Port Arthur area facilities had been subjected to extensive flooding and wind damage. In many cases foam blankets were needed to cover leaking fuel and prevent ignition.

Despite a wealth of fuel in storage at these facilities, the firefighters soon found themselves running critically short of gasoline needed for their operations. Food to feed the firefighters was also in short supply. On Sunday morning WF&HC owner Dwight Williams contacted his long-time friend, David White, and asked if he could help.

First, White contacted Jason Marsh of Bryan-based JM Trailers, a distributor for Texas Bragg Trailers. Marsh committed his personal truck and a trailer with which to haul the fuel. Then, working through the Brazos County Emergency Operations Center and various wholesale gasoline distributors, White located three 250-gallon containers from the Bremco Oil Company. While the containers were being loaded, Aggieland Tire Repair & Road Service checked the vehicle to be sure it could carry the load safety. The fuel to fill the containers was obtained from the Producers Coop in Bryan.

The Brazos County Sheriff's Office notified the Department of Public Safety of the need for the fuel in the evacuated area. In Conroe, White and Marsh were joined by Douglas L. Centilli, chief of staff for U.S. Rep. Kevin Brady. Surprisingly, roads were passable and the emergency gasoline shipment reached WF&HC headquarters in Mauriceville and was unloaded before sunset.

"You have to visualize that everywhere from Houston to Beaumont and into Louisiana there was no power, no gasoline and no restaurants," White said. "There were none of the advantages that we take for granted when making a normal five hour trip."

People other than emergency responders should heed requests by officials to stay out of evacuated areas until further notice, White said.

"Emergency responders are doing everything they can to restore essential services," White said. "Emotional citizens returning prematurely makes it harder for responders to concentrate on the job at hand."

Industrial Fire World magazine serves the industrial fire fighting community throughout the U.S. and around the world. The magazine is also responsible for the only conference and exposition for industrial firefighters held worldwide.

"Our 21 years in working with industrial emergency responders was quickly put into action," White said. "It took every partner in the process to respond to the call effectively and safely."o


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