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BP holds spring fire school at Texas A&M
Volume 24, No. 4

In June, the first commissioning tanker is expected to arrive at Canada's only LNG regassification plant. Mark Wilson, a fire prevention officer/inspector with the Saint John Fire Department in New Brunswick recently attended a BP semi-annual corporate fire training school in Texas to prepare.

"Part of the training process for the command staff will be sending certain individuals down here to get an oversight of how LNG actually works and how it reacts," Wilson said.

The LNG live fire "prop" at the Texas Engineering Extension Service fire school in College Station was only one of a wide array of training scenarios available to those attending the BP school. The school provides participants with a mix of training including classroom students and live-fire field exercises.

During the field exercises, firefighters from around the world observe the characteristics of different types of fire and apply various techniques for extinguishing or controlling it.

The Saint John Fire Department covers a 124 square mile area that includes a large Irving Oil refinery, the Point Lepreau Nuclear Generating Station and the Colson Cover power generating station. The firefighters are also responsible for an LNG plant with a send-out capacity of 1.2 billion cubic feet of natural gas a day.

Wilson said he is surprised by how cleanly LNG burns.

"I'm used to heavy hydrocarbons that give off heavy black smoke and soot," Wilson said. "But this is so clean burning. And the heat that follows is immediate. You have to prepare yourself for it."

Part of the training involved attacking the burning pit of LNG with a 1? -inch hose line.

"It's not a real good thing to do but it can be done," Wilson said. "They got the fire going real heavy. I ended up backing off. My helmet melted and part of my jacket burned. I couldn't feel the heat because I had good protective gear on. But the instructors realized I was steaming up and pulled me back."

One thing that set him apart from his industrial fire fighting colleague was the way Wilson checked his gear before the attack.

"I was always taught to prepare down on one knee when going into a structure fire," Wilson said. "You stay low. It's the nature of the beast."

In January, the average temperature in Saint John is about 20 degrees Fahrenheit. By comparison, the climate in the Caribbean nation of Trinidad and Tobago is tropical year round. Krishendaph Bharaph, a fire and emergency response contractor for BP at Galeota Point in Trinidad and Tobago, made an easier transition to the Texas heat.

An instructor with the advance exterior fire fighting program at the semi-annual BP school, Bharaph has visited College Station at least once or twice a year since 2001. This spring's BP school became even more important when his company, Eastern Emergency Response, recently won an award to protect Atlantic LNG facilities back home.

"Pretty soon we're going to be working with LNG down there," Bharaph said. "Not all fires can be treated the same way. This is a new experience for me. It gives me baseline knowledge about the product and the essential, critical tools in dealing with it."

TEEX is a comfortable place to make errors, as opposed to mistakes made fighting a real fire, he said.

"You can see the changes as you improve," Bharaph said.

For Kareem Ismais, a safety engineer with BP in Eygpt, the spring BP school marked his first visit to TEEX. He serves on a refinery fire brigade in Cairo. His previous training was in offshore fire fighting in Scotland.

"The scale of fire fighting here is much broader," Ismais said. "The level of experience is fascinating."

 
 

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