48th annual event draws 533 industrial fire students
Volume 25 Summer
First-hand experience of the fury that is a soon-to-be challenged industrial fire is sought by every visitor during the 48th annual Industrial Fire School conducted the week of July 18, 2010, at the Brayton Fire Training Field in College Station, TX.
However, not every person registered was a firefighter. Among the 533 registrants was Amy Wallet of Scott Health & Safety, a leading manufacturer of self-contained breathing apparatus. Knowing exactly what firefighters experience in the line of duty helps Scott design better air packs, she said.
"This puts us in touch with what firefighters have to go through," Wallet said. "Until you actually have to wear this gear in 100 degree F weather fighting a 1,400 degree F fire you don't realize what it is like."
Hosted by the Texas Engineering Extension Service, the annual school offers a broad range of classes designed to address specific industry needs using the most advanced methodologies available in the fire training world. Brayton, located near the Texas A&M University campus, includes 22 live-fire training props simulating all manners of industrial emergency havoc.
Many of the firefighters attending the school were not only first-time visitors to Brayton, but first-time visitors to the U.S. John Noteman is a production technician for Petrojam, Jamaica's state-owned oil company which operates a refinery in Kingston.
"We don't have fire props like this back in Jamaica," Noteman said. "All I have to say is that anybody who has anything to do with exterior fire needs to have this experience."
Nassar S. Al-Khaldi is an operations technician with SADAF, a company that operates one of the world's largest petrochemical complexes. Located in the Al Jubail industrial zone on Saudi Arabia's eastern coast, the complex produces more than 4.7 million tons of building-block petrochemicals a year.
"You have to take the minimum of safety orientation to be allowed to work inside the chemical facility," Al-Khaldi said. That orientation includes rescue, hazardous materials, fire fighting and first aid. Attending the industrial school was a condition of being promoted from a firefighter to a fire officer, he said.
Both Petrojam and SADAF sent six or more firefighters to attend this year's school. Both companies have been an annual presence at the school for the past three years.
Based considerably closer to Brayton was visitor Jose Santollo, a control room operator for Hexion Specialty Chemicals plant in Ennis, TX, near Dallas. The facility manufactures a variety of thermoset resins used in energy, civil engineering, coatings and construction.
Like Noteman and Al-Khaldi, Santollo was a first-time visitor to Brayton. Although he has served on the plant fire brigade for two years, Santollo said he has only fought training fires - never the real thing.
"The industrial school gives you the chance to understand how it actually feels to do the work," Santollo said. "The instructors are great. They show you how to move and work around the fire."
One of those instructors was William Green, a captain with the Deer Park (TX) Volunteer Fire Department. The department serves a highly industrialized region that includes the Houston Ship Channel. Green is a former industrial firefighter with 35 years experience who retired as a fire chief for DuPont.
Firefighters attending the industrial fire school were the first to get the full benefit of an extensive list of capital improvements at Brayton over the past few years.
"It's a whole lot easier for people to get from one prop to another," Green said. "You don't have to worry about people tripping over rocky surfaces. It enhances the learning experience when you don't have to worry about things like that."
Check out the following links for IFW photos and videos from the 2010 Industrial Fire School: