“It is not the strongest of the species that survive, nor the most intelligent, but the one most responsive to change.”
By ANTON RIECHER
In 2007, Huntsman Corporation, one of the largest chemical companies in the U.S., announced the sale of its U.S. butadiene and MTBE businesses, including two plants in Port Neches, TX. However, Huntsman elected to retain its propylene oxide-MTBE and olefin-oxide plants in Port Neches.
Overnight, Huntsman’s Port Neches fire brigade lost access to half of the two-pumper fleet at its disposal, said Jim Gillespie, one of the brigade’s three full-time responders.
“Previously, when we were all together, the truck covering the plant that is now Texas Petrochemicals and our truck would respond together,” Gillespie said. “When we had a truck down for repairs, the other facility would cover us.”
The solution for Huntsman was a new fire truck. Among the three companies bidding on the contract was Ferrara Apparatus in Holden, LA. Of the three, Ferrara was the only one that bid exactly what Huntsman specified, emergency response team leader Tom Colwell said.
“One company chose not to bid at all,” Colwell said. “Another company started changing up our specification. They wanted to sell us what they wanted, not what we asked for. Ferrara bid the job as speced.”
As a result, the Port Neches facility took delivery on a Ferrara Inundator industrial pumper in December 2008.
“Our preplans called for applying copious amounts of water on some of our products,” Colwell said. “The quicker you can get that volume of water on that product, the better.”
After the plant sale, the ERT was left with a 1985 GMC foam pumper equipped with a 1,250 gpm pump and a 2,000 gpm monitor, Gillespie said.
“With 150 psi coming into the truck, you could max it out at 2,500 gpm,” he said.
By contrast, the new Ferrara truck came with a Hale 8FG 3,000 gpm pump. Huntsman ordered a Williams Fire & Hazard Control Hot Shot II foam system, an Edwards PTO foam pump and a 1,000 gallon foam tank. Delivering the water and foam is a WFHC 1x6 Ambassador monitor and two 2,000 gpm Task Force Tips Monsoon rear deck guns, all remote controlled, Colwell said.
“Two people can put somewhere in the neighborhood of 5,000 to 8,000 gpm of water on the scene,” Colwell said. “They can roll up, connect the large diameter suction hoses, set it up and put serious water on the problem.”
Available staff may change, but the exposures and their risks remain the same, Gillespie said.
“With a piece of equipment like this you can roll up on the scene and almost shoot over every unit just by sitting on the pavement,” Gillespie said. “You don’t have to leave the road to do anything.”
In case the fire does turn out to be a handline situation, the truck carries 3,000 feet of five-inch hose and 500 feet of three-inch hose. It also comes with two crossway pre-connects.
Inside, the truck boasts a Ferrara Inferno custom chassis with an extended medium cab and an eight-inch raised roof. Beside the two jump seats in the front, the truck includes a bench seat and a slide out command desk in the rear, Colwell said.
“The rear seat has a slide back desk with a drawer underneath to hold preplans and drawings of the plant,” he said. “There is air conditioning, lights and the radio. It’s an on-scene command center.”
Aside from three full-time responders – Colwell, Gillespie and Terry LeBlanc – Huntsman has a combination of 125 mandatory and volunteer responders drawn from the ranks of the refinery staff. At first, the responders were wary of the new fire truck, Colwell said.
“They were a little intimidated by the size and fact that it’s a cab over,” Colwell said. “They were used to driving a whole different style of vehicle.”
The body is heavy duty extruded aluminum with high side compartments. Powered by a Detroit Diesel Series 60 515 horsepower engine, the truck also includes an Allison 4000 EV Automatic transmission.
“It has power steering and power brakes, which the old truck didn’t have,” Colwell said.
Other specialty features include an 18-inch front bumper extension, Intec color camera and color monitor, a four position FireCom system, wheel well air bottle compartments, aluminum hinged tool boards, Whelen Super LED warning lights and, for back up power, a Harrison 6 kW hydraulic generator.
To date, the truck has not been used against a real fire. Colwell and his ERT are happy to keep it that way. They are also happy to show it off when the opportunity arises, such as during the Sabine-Neches Fire Chiefs mutual aid meeting last fall.
“We are going to the Williams Fire & Hazard Control foam school this year, same as last year, so a lot of people have seen it in use,” Colwell said. “Some people come by to see it when we practice with it on our own fire field.”
Ferrara Apparatus takes a continuing pride in the truck as well, he said.
“They keep calling us and asking to borrow it back to take to fire shows.”