Enrollment for the 2011 Xtreme Industrial Fire & Hazard Training hosted by Williams Fire & Hazard Control totaled 274 students and instructors from across the U.S. and worldwide, said Williams F&HC spokesman Brent Gaspard.
“This is the biggest school we’ve had yet,” Gaspard said.
The four-day flammable liquid fire fighting school held in May was conducted in Beaumont, TX, at the MCM Elegante hotel and the Beaumont Emergency Services Training complex, a fire school complete with full-sized live-fire training props.
Record flooding along the refinery rich Mississippi River did not affect student turnout, Gaspard said. However, several instructor teams scheduled to attend the school were unable to leave their industrial facilities due to the flooding, he said.
Attendance at the school included distributors and end users of Williams F&HC products from Europe, China, South America and Australia.
Among the newest exporters of oil to attend the school was Belize, the northernmost nation in Central America. About seven years ago a farmer near the town of Spanish Lookout struck oil while digging a shallow water well. Today, the nation produces nearly 4,000 barrels per day.
Gerson Brado and Gilberto Puc, employed by Belize Natural Energy, said it was their first time to attend the Williams F&HC school. However, they had trained in the U.S. before to fight forest fires. Belize is nearly 40 percent forest.
“We have learned how Purple K (dry chemical) works,” Brado said. “It’s amazing. We haven’t had the chance to use it at home. We wanted to do it here and see.”
Both expressed amazement about the amount of heat a tank fire generates compared to fighting a forest fire, he said.
“We had never felt that before,” Brado said. “Yesterday we felt it.”
Attendance is not restricted to firefighters alone. Also on hand to absorb the training were representatives of several foreign companies that distribute Williams F&HC foam and equipment worldwide. Alberto Menendez Suarez and Pascual Antonio Ibanez Llovet represent Ituzzi Group, distributor for Williams F&HC in France, Spain and Portugal.
“We have a 12 year relationship with Williams F&HC,” Suarez said. “We try to send someone to the school each year.”
Suarez, product manager for oil and gas fire fighting equipment, had never participated in a live-fire training evolution.
“I think it’s going to help me,” Suarez said. “It’s always useful to be enthusiastic with the product.”
Llovet is an engineer responsible for designing pipe racks for refineries, terminals and chemical plants.
“We try to work closely with our suppliers because we use Williams F&HC equipment on our racks,” Llovet said.
Another product distributor on hand to soak up information was Richard Zhang, international marketing manager for Xian Hengli Fluid Machinery which operates in northwest China. Two years ago, the company added Williams F&HC to a product line that had previously focused on American-made industrial air compressors.
“For us it was a good match,” Zhang said. “Our current customers are oil companies that really need to improve protection of their properties and people.”
China is a developing country, he said. Because jumbo storage tanks are a new technology in China, the type of fires that can be involved are a new phenomenon to firefighters.
“Like Dwight Williams said, maybe 90 percent of firefighters have never been to one of these types of events,” Zhang said. “Now we are becoming more aware. We have to rethink our strategies. We have to get prepared.”
Along with Williams F&HC personnel who served as instructors in classrooms and during live-fire training, Williams F&HC founder Dwight Williams spent long hours on the fire field imparting years of wisdom to the eager students. As always, the best lessons to learn are how to avoid getting hurt.
At the pump seal prop, designed to educate firefighters about LPG and three-dimensional liquid spill fires, Williams warned firefighters manning the nozzles about the dangers of hitting their colleagues with a 300 gpm stream discharging at 38 pounds per square inch pressure.
“The water streams can knock you down,” Williams said. “They can knock you into the fire. Trust me.”
He spoke from experience. On one occasion, a Williams F&HC employee hit Williams in the back of the head with a monitor flowing about 1,000 gpm.
“I took him aside and said ‘Young man, how long have you worked for this company, not to include tomorrow?’”