Motiva Enterprise Fire Marshal Lynn Baldwin considers himself lucky for two reasons. One, Motiva's Port Arthur, TX, facility is the proud owner of a high volume E-One Liquidator pumper affectionately nicknamed "Big Red." And, two, since taking delivery in December 1999, the facility has not had an emergency that even approached testing Big Red's full capacity.
"I don't know too many people that have a truck like this," Baldwin said. "There are lots of trucks around here with 2,000 gallon per minute deck guns. Those are pretty common. But ours is the only one in thiswhole area that has a 4,000 gallon per minute remote control deck gun."
Baldwin is responsible for fire safety at four facilities totaling 5,500 acres including a 2350,000 barrels-a-day refinery, a shipping terminal where finished product is loaded on ships and barges and a receiving terminal in nearby Port Neches where Saudi crude is delivered. Of the more than 100 storage tanks spread across the four sites, the Port Neches terminal alone has two 311-foot diameter crude oil storage tanks holding nearly 1 million barrels.
Thanks largely to Big Red's effectiveness, a double-page advertising spread for E-One has been the extent of Baldwin's recent media exposure. The new Liquidator alone pumps more than Baldwin's entire pre-Big Red apparatus inventory. Shooting 3,000 gallons per minute from draft and close to 5,000 gallons per minute from hydrants, Biug Red has dramatically out gunned every emergency so far. The worst was a small fire 183 feet above ground on a cat cracker tower.
"We got the truck hooked up and told management how we planned to deal with the fire -- "We're just going to take that big gun and see if we can't reach up there and sweep across it," Baldwin said.
As Baldwin prophesied, one sweep with Big Red's Hydro-Foam deck monitor completely extinguished the fire. End of story.
"If we had not had this new equipment we would have had to put people on that tower going up the stairways with 1 3/4-inch hose," Baldwin said. "A standard ground monitor wouldn't reach it. We pulled Big Red up, hooked up with three 5-inch hoses, made one sweep and the fire was out."
Big Red was also in attendxance at the unheading of a delayed coker unit. There was some concern that thot liquid might spill, causing a flash fire. As a test prior to the unheading, Baldwin hooked up Big Red to a new 12-inch manifold to determine if the stream from the deck gun could reach the cutting deck 200 feet above ground.
"The stream actually cleared the cutting deck, making us a lot more comfortable when they unheaded the coker," Baldwin said. (The coker unit was unheaded without incident.)
Big Red's deck gun has also been brought to bear against several propane leaks, knocking down and dissipating the vapors before ignition could occur, Baldwin said. Big Red also minimized damage in a vacuum pipe fire. Once again, management was very pleased with the results.
So if Big Red is overkill for the vast majority of emergencies that come along, why are Baldwin and Motiva investing in a big brother, an even larger Liquidator due to be delivered in August? Well, except when you're talking about bombing raids, overkill is a good thing.
The new pumper measures almost 40 feet long -- five feet longer than Big Red. Whereas Big Red carries 1,000 gallons of foam, Motiva's new Liquidator will have a foam capacity of 2,500 gallons. Instead of a single back axle, the new Liquidator comes equipped with rear tandem wheels to support the greater load.
"We wanted more foam capability that we could roll," Baldwin said. "If you have a big fire, a 1,000 gallons of foam doesn't last you a long time. Together with Big Red and the new truck I've got two other trucks each of which carries a 1,000 gallons of foam."
Big Red's Hydro-Foam deck gun shoots both water and foam. The other big advantage that the new Liquidator will have over Big Red is a new Hydro-Chem deck gun that shoots water, foam and dry chemical.
"We looked at a prototype at Williams Fire & Hazard Control," Baldwin said. "This gun we have on Big Red will shoot right at 300 feet or a little more. The new deck gun will shoot another 30 to 40 feet further. That will give us more range, more flexibility with pressure type fires where you can lay down a blanket of foam, then come back and use dry chemical to knock out the pressure fire."
The deck gun on both Big Red and the new truck can be operated from the cab or by a radio remote control.
"The remote control is real neat because you can stand a block down the road and operate the deck gun," Baldwin said. "It gives you the option of moving out from behind the gun to a position where you can really see where you are putting the water."
Part of the weekly practice sessions for firefighters on operating the truck includes familiarizing themselves with the remote control.
Another Williams innovation present on Big Red and the new truck is a Hot Shot II foam proportioning system that greatly simplifies the process of making foam, Baldwin said.
"On our old trucks, just to give you an example, you have to open a couple of valves and close a couple of valves before you can ever make foam," Baldwin said. "On this truck all you do is find one knob and turn it from the off position to automatic. Everything is taken care of. You don't have anything else to pull out or push in."
What prompted Motiva to make a big investment in fire trucks averaging about $500,000 a piece? The American Petroleum Institute recommends a fire fighting capacity of 8,000 to 10,000 gallons per minute be available to apply within the first 10 minutes of a fire. Motiva recently reexamined its fire safety needs across the board and Baldwin soon had authorization to buy Big Red.
"Luckily, our management said 'Hey, let's go for it if that is what we need," Baldwin said. "It was even more of a surprise when 10 months later they told me to buy another one. We've spent a little over a million dollars on two trucks in the last two years."
The other equipment Baldwin has on hand includes a Williams 2x6 Six Gun monitor, a Williams 2,000 gallons per minute Hired Gun, two 3,000 gallon per minute portable pumps and one 2,000 gallon per minute portable pump. Also on hand is 23,800 feet of 5- and 6-inch fire hose, 3,000 feet of 1 3/4-inch hose and 3,000 feet of 3-inch hose. The plant has 15,000 gallons of 3M Class B foam on site with access to another 20,000 gallons in an emergency.
Like every other major industry in America in the last decade, Motiva has downsized its work force at the Port Arthur refinery. Less manpower made it necessary to seek out more firepower in fire fighting apparatus.
"I have 11 people who work directly for me here in the fire brigade," Baldwin said. "We have someone here 24 hours a day. On the day shift we normally have six people including myself. On the off shift I have two people."
Motiva operates with a mandatory brigade of about 132 people trained in fire fighting. Beside the mandatory brigade, Baldwin has an interior fire brigade of 19 people.
"Normally, out of all these people we get maybe 11 or 12 if we have an incident," Baldwin said. "The reason we have so many people trained is that you've got to have more than you really need to deal with vacation and sick leave and still have a brigade here on hand around the clock."
Keeping a mandatory brigade motivated is not easy, Baldwin said. While a volunteer brigade would be better, a mandatory brigade is necessary to meet management's requirements that the plant have firefighters on hand 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
Although the mandatory brigade is indispensable, Big Red and its greater nozzle capacity has reduced the risk members of the mandatory brigade face.
"What we require of them is to lay the hose down and rig it to the equipment, then get out of harm's way," Baldwin said. "We don't have to expose our fire brigade up close to a fire anymore. We've got guns that we can shoot up to 300 feet and get on the fire. Normally, if we have to do any blocking in, our volunteer brigade will do that. The biggest job for the mandatory brigade is to lay the hose then get it picked up and back on the truck."
As for those who have to work close to the flames, Big Red offers one important advantage during the miserable 100 degree Texas summers -- air conditioning.
"We have two air conditioning systems in this truck, one in the cab and one where the brigade rides in the back," Baldwin said. "We can fit eight people at a time in there. It comes complete with a desk so we can hold a meeting."
During the cat unit fire, Baldwin used the vehicle as an incident command center, gathering management and other essential personnel into the truck to confer on the best action to take.
"We got all the decision making people into the back of the truck and closed the doors so they could concentrate on their decisions," Baldwin said. "We didn't listen to all the talking and everything else going on outside the truck. Everyone at a fire wants to know what you are going to do and how long it is going to take. It pays to have a place in you vehicle where you can get away from all that stuff and work out your plan."
Big Red might make fire fighting sound easy, but it is still hard work, Baldwin said. His 11 years at Motiva gives him the experience to rate Big Red against what his other apparatus can do.
"I've fought fires with our old pump, a 1,500 gallon per minute pumper," Baldwin said. "I know how much trouble we had laying down blankets of foam with them, usually with hand lines. With Big Red we practice laying down a blanket of foam in one sweep."
The firefighters practice with Big Red on a special training field complete with a 50-foot by 30-foot fire pit, plus a scaled down process unit with a tower and exchangers. Standard procedure is to fill the pit with nearly 400 gallons of gasoline and light it. From a distance of well over 150 feet, Big Red and its deck guns can easily reach the fuel-filled pit, extinguishing in a single pass all but a few flickers of the once billowing flames.
"I think that if we every have a major fire we will get out truck in, get the fire spotted and it will make a tremendous difference," Baldwin said. The API recommendation can easily be met.
There is no question in Baldwin's mind about the effectiveness of Big Red. The only question remaining for him is what to name the new Liquidator arriving in August.
"I don't know what we are going to call it," Baldwin said. "We're still trying to come up with a name for it."