Article Archive
Ethanol Fuels Fire Training
Hayden and Company Fire and Safety and Suncor Fuels Conduct Industrial Fire Fighting Workshop For Ethanol Producers and Municipal Firefighters
Vol 21 No 2

As the world grapples with growing energy needs and accessing fossil fuel supplies, alternatives continue to be a focus of global attention. Obviously, that focus includes ethanol, with its renewable grain source and "close to home" availability. But, as with many new products and technologies, advancement requires changes in how we operate each day, sometimes subtly and sometimes not-so subtle. Consider the increased challenges placed on the local municipal fire department when an "industrial" ethanol production facility is opened in a heretofore "agricultural" area. Obviously, proximity to grain resources is fundamental to plant placement, but what about the operational challenges placed on the municipal fire departments?

For fifty-eight years, Hayden and Company of Darien, IL,has provided industrial fire protection and emergency response equipment, primarily to the U.S. petroleum industry, as well as chemical processing, power generation and heavy manufacturing plants. Six years ago, Hayden teamed up with Ward Barnett of Conoco's Denver refinery and Mike Mathews of the UltraMar Diamond Shamrock refinery - also in Denver - to stage the first Rocky Mountain annual fire fighting workshop. That course was given to municipal fire departments, whose operational universe had grown to include industrial facilities. Suncor Energy Inc. subsequently purchased both refineries and has kept the workshop program in place. Suncor Energy (U.S.A.) Inc. which operates the refinery in Commerce City, CO, (just north of Denver) is a subsidiary of Suncor Energy Inc., an integrated energy company strategically focused on developing one of the world's largest petroleum resource basins - Canada's Athabasca oil sands. In 1967, Suncor made history by pioneering commercial crude oil production from oil sands. Since then, Suncor has become a major North American energy producer and marketer and today has four major business divisions in Canada and the United States, with more than 4,500 employees.

The instructional model for the team's annual flammable liquid training workshops is simple enough - to provide hands-on, state-of-the-art technique and equipment training to municipal and volunteer fire departments, whose mostly residential experienced members were facing new-to-them industrial fire fighting challenges. Ward Barnett, Suncor Energy's Loss Prevention Resource/Fire Chief, explains the company's position, "We believe that helping to train firefighters is an important part of the Suncor outreach program. And, today that training must include hands-on experience fighting both ethanol and other industrial-type fires, which can be quite new to most residential area fire departments."

The latest workshop was held at the Suncor refinery in Denver on October 1, 2005. It was attended by 27 Colorado firefighters, including representatives from the City of Sterling, the Windsor-Severnson Fire Department, the Evans Fire Department and two members of Ethanol Management Corporation. The group includes seven firefighters from Sterling, CO, responsible for the newest ethanol plant that went on line at the end of October. Plant General Manager, David Kramer was enthusiastic about the latest effort by Hayden and Suncor. Kramer believes it is essential that ethanol producers work closely with municipal officials to ensure safety and emergency response. And, he hastens to add that preparation and training should include live, hands-on participation. "Ethanol is a key part of the country's alternative fuel matrix and it is therefore essential that we prepare for its safe use, as well as dealing with the different emergency and firefighting techniques that it requires. Hayden and Suncor did an outstandingjob of providing realistic scenarios allowing firefighters to sharpen their skills," he said.

The increasing number of ethanol plants under construction throughout the United States and the need for industrial fire training motivated the team from Hayden and Suncor to focus significant workshop time on the subject. Captain Brian Martens, of the Windsor Severance (Colorado) Fire Department represented another new plant area. He acknowledged, "Within the Windsor Fire District, the new Front Range Properties ethanol plant and a glass manufacturing plant are welcome additions to the local economy. However, they bring a new dimension to the challenges of keeping the community (26,000 population) safe. It was great! The guys really enjoyed the afternoon session, where they experienced live industrial fires and fought them with unique techniques and media."

Fire Chief Robert Olme, of the Sterling Colorado Fire Department, described the session's value. "Ethanol fires are very hot with less visible flames, and when significant volumes of ethanol are present fire fighting foam is the extinguishing agent of choice. It was great to experience the scenarios and see the differences in how various media work. Suncor and Hayden did a wonderful job of creating real-life situations and giving us some experience," he said.

Also included during the session were a number of other typical industrial challenges, including techniques to gain access to industrial valves during a fire. Leaking valves that catch fire must often be accessed in order to ultimately control the blaze. To accommodate this action, a technique designed to push the flames away from the valve is employed, allowing the valve to be closed safely. This technique was demonstrated to the group and then practiced hands-on by attendees.

Past workshops have included attendees and trainers from a variety of locations and companies, including Ultra Mar Diamond Shamrock and the Valero Refining Company from Colorado, Conoco Phillips from Colorado, Utah and Texas, Flint Hills Refining from Texas and Minnesota, as well as the Frontier Refining Company and the Wyoming Refining Company from Wyoming. According to Hayden and Company's Vice President, Tom Mueller, the support of the industry has been outstanding. "The training program has been well supported by the ethanol producers and users," he said. "This latest workshop is a great example; Ethanol Management Corporation provided the ethanol we used for the live demonstrations and fire fighting drills, Sterling Ethanol LLC and Front Range Energy both provided funding support. We, and our attendees, certainly appreciate their support!"

Programs like the Hayden and Suncor sponsored flammable liquid training workshops started as local programs, but their popularity and uniqueness have resulted in interest on the part of firefighters and firefighting instructors from around the country. Working together with local authorities and concerned citizen groups we can create more and more win/win situations, where industry and citizens at-large reap the benefits of progress. o

Bill Kennedy is an industrial fire protection consultant with Hayden and Company. His firefighting career has spanned more than thirty years, starting as a firefighter for the city of Colorado Springs Fire Department and concluding as Fire Chief for the City of College Station, Texas and Texas A&M University. With respect to academics, Chief Kennedy holds a BS degree in Business Administration from Regis University and an MS degree in Construction Management from Texas A&M University. He also currently serves as Adjunct Professor in the Fire Administration Program at Colorado State University. For Information pertaining to this training program and other industrial fire training classes please contact Chief Kennedy at 719-332-1433 or by e-mail at ""


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