Dave's Notes: Grasping the slippery truth

                                On Jan. 1, 1994, provisions of the M ontreal Protocol, an international agreement intended to protect the ozone layer, banned the domestic production of halons. One of the most effective firefighting agents known to humanity found itself condemned to death with no chance of a reprieve. Well, kinda. Halon continues to play an important role in fire protection today. We nurse stockpiles of it to keep our automatic systems in aircraft and electronic centers fully pressurized. Why? Because halon extinguishes in minimal time, is non-corrosive and relatively non-toxic to humans. Nothing better has been found to replace it. Fast forward to the present. Long range environmental concerns threaten to torpedo the use of fluorinated surfactants in Class B firefighting foam. However, testing to date still finds fluorinated foams vastly superior to non-fluorinated substitutes. Unlike halon,...
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Dave's Notes: A captain named obvious

Working any kind of firefighting magic at an industrial conflagration requires one basic component – water. And, yet, as incontrovertible as that fact is, it is amazing how often responders have to scrape together major moisture on short notice at facilities where the need for water is as obvious as oranges are called oranges because they are orange. No, I am not referring to the 1989 Pasadena, TX, chemical plant explosion and fire. As much as I enjoy dwelling on that high point in my firefighting career the fire water system at Pasadena would have been up to the challenge had not the initial blast sheared off every available hydrant at ground level. I mean companies who do not even bother installing the hydrants. In 2002 a fire at a petroleum blending and packaging plant in Pearland, TX threatened nearly 1.2 million gallons of motor oil, hydraulic fluids and lubricants. Yet,...
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Superior, WI fire chief presented Red Adair Award for April 2018 refinery fire response

    Industrial Fire World magazine honored Superior, WI Fire Chief Steve Panger with its 2018 Red Adair Award Friday (Aug. 10) in recognition of his department’s response to the April 26 fire and explosion that rocked the Husky Energy refinery in Superior.   For YouTube footage of the presentation, CLICK HERE or see below.     "Thank you to Industrial Fire World magazine for keeping the legacy of Red Adair alive," Panger said. "It's people like Red who have made advancements in the world of industrial fire fighting that definitely make our job safer today."   A preliminary report by the U.S. Chemical Safety Board states that an initial explosion in a catalytic cracking unit at Husky Energy triggered a 15,000 barrel spill of hot asphalt that spread nearly two hours before ignition.   The award, presented during the International Association of Fire Chiefs Fire-Rescue International Conference and Expo in Dallas, TX,...
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Clear combustible wrapper

When it comes to a high pressure vapor release, the scary visuals, i.e., the billowing apparition rapidly enveloping the facility, is not as dangerous as what might already be much closer. An invisible killer surrounds the escaping fuel, a combustible wrapper that makes ignition and death possible. Visible clouds of vapor represent a region of relative safety. The richness of the fuel itself drives away the oxygen it needs to burn. You might suffocate but you will not incinerate. However, just beyond the vapor the leading edge of the release is mixing with the surrounding atmosphere, turning clear and flammable. Granted, with a multitude of ignition sources readily available, chances are the escaping vapor will touch off long before the ERT can do anything. The plant’s own fire pumps, automatically activated in such an emergency, could easily provide the devastating spark. But what if the gas continues to vent uninterrupted for...
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2018 Red Adair Award for industrial firefighting to be presented at FRI

The 2018 Red Adair Award for leadership in industrial firefighting will be presented by Industrial Fire World magazine April 10 during the Fire-Rescue International conference in Dallas.   “The greatest aspect of this award is its tie to Red,” IFW publisher David   White said. “I presented the first Red Adair Award to Red himself in 1991.”   Adair, who died in August 2004 at age 89, was a highly respected leader in the specialized field of oil well fire fighting. His lengthy career was capped in 1991 when he took a lead role in extinguishing the many oil well fires in Kuwait set by the retreating Iraqi army after the Gulf War.   White, a former instructor at the Texas A&M Fire School, is the owner of Fire & Safety Specialists, a training and consulting firm that has done work in China, India, Libya, South Africa and other foreign countries....
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Montana ERT chief makes "Disasters Man-Made" required reading

    For most industrial emergency responders, “Disasters Man-Made” is something to read in your leisure time – whenever that is. But at the CHS Refinery in Laurel, MT, Emergency Response Coordinator Keith Metzger makes reading the book mandatory for his ERT. “I issued the book to my leadership team and others,” Metzger said. “I assign them a chapter each month. Then we hold a meeting where they highlight any areas of interest that might apply to us here.” “Disasters Man-Made,” written by David White and Anton Riecher, documents 31 post-World War II industrial emergencies that still hold lessons for us today. Published in 2011, the book cover dramatic events ranging from epic fires and hazardous materials spills to less headline-grabbing but crucial incidents that still raised havoc for emergency responders. Besides world-class refinery fires, the litany of industrial woes listed include a water-sensitive magnesium fire, an overtuned barge leaking acid,...
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Flat extinguisher keeps construction costs low

Bill Gough installs and inspects fire extinguishers for a living in Bryan, TX. He ranks the Oval Brand Fire Products extinguisher as comparable to any other 10-pound ABC or dry chemical extinguisher on the market. “I think it performs very well,” Gough said. “It performs like it’s a fast flow and fast flows are very expensive extinguishers that are not normal in everyday use. This one really gets out there a good 12 to 15 feet I’d say. It gives you an opportunity to put the fire out without getting so close to it.” For video of the test, check the IFW YouTube channel -- IFWfireworld. The big difference between Oval and traditional fire extinguishers is the shape. Traditional extinguishers are cylindrical, measuring roughly five inches in diameter. The Oval design is flat, measuring from three to 3½-inches deep and 9 to 11 inches wide.   Gough, owner of Shield Fire...
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Firefighters' Bazaar - Saudi Arabian Fire Protection Conference

For decades, innovation in flammable liquid fire fighting has struggled to match the ambitions of the engineers designing ever expanding storage tanks. Today, the size of tanks being built in the Middle East far outstrips the ability of firefighters to protect them.   David White, a fire protection expert and president of Industrial Fire World, addressed the topic as a keynote speaker at the 4th annual Society of Fire Protection Engineers – Saudi Arabian Chapter Conference and Exhibition in Dammam, Saudi Arabia, in November.   “The evolution of fire fighting equipment has not kept pace with the challenge of how big the tanks are, how much product they contain and what the consequences of a fire can be,” White said.   In the beginning, the word crude applied to the contents and the tanks themselves, White said. Slowly, refineries transitioned from wooden tanks to the steel ones. “And they were small,”...
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IFW addresses E-One dealers meeting in Florida

Industrial Fire World publisher David White was no more than half a mile away from ground zero when a chemical complex responsible for one-third of the world's polyethylene production exploded in October 1989 in Pasadena, TX. "I was at the plant next door teaching managers how to handle industrial emergencies," White said. White and IFW editor Anton Riecher addressed the E-One Dealers Meeting in Ocala, FL, in February on industrial emergencies depicted in their book, "Disasters Man-Made." A video of the presentation is available at the link to the left. Besides the Pasadena explosion, White detailed his participation in the response to industrial emergencies in Baton Rouge and Norco, LA. The book covers 31 industrial emergencies ranging from massive explosion and fires to fatal hazardous material events.    
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Dave's Notes Incident command revival

Last summer’s hydrocarbon hysteria in the Gulf of Mexico kept all manners of emergency responders occupied from Louisiana to Florida. It has renewed interest in the topic of incident command. Originally, incident command developed around the concept of how best to manage and maintain control of the dozens of simultaneous operations carried out on the typical fire ground emergency, i.e., structure fires.   In the aftermath of the Deepwater Horizon disaster, emergency responders found themselves tasked with monitoring personnel and resources numbering in the thousands. Sure, we have all been through the classes and been taught how to move the troops around on paper, but this was the real thing. We hardly ever have to do the real thing on this scale. Most operations come down to one- or two-alarm fires where we never have to fill in all the boxes on the command sheet.   What happened in the Gulf...
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Magpetco

  In January 1974, Les and Dwight Williams joined forces in Port Neches, Texas, to fight their first big storage tank fire.   When people ask about the worst fire Dwight Williams ever responded to, he replies with one word — Magpetco. Thousands of barrels of burning crude oil jumped out of a storage tank and chased the firefighters like a demon conjured from a witch’s cauldron.   Williams, who later founded Williams Fire & Hazard Control, today describes what happened as "absolutely unbelievable."   "I was in the dike with the tank that erupted," he said. "Oil kept going up and up. Then I realized that stuff was fixing to come down eventually. I went to running."   Everything caught in the path of that superheated tidal wave instantly blackened, blistered and broiled. And, yet, Magpetco, which stands for Magnolia Petroleum Company, is a fire that is all but forgotten....
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Dave's Notes Sorry doesn't get the job done

  After the widget plant burned down, the folks who lost their jobs wanted answers. So did the merchants dependant on the plant payroll, and the politicians hoping to keep the voting public prosperous.   “We didn’t have the big pumper to do the job,” answers the fire chief. “We didn’t have enough foam or water. We didn’t have enough firefighters either. We just didn’t have enough of anything.”   Welcome to the FDE – Fire Department of Excuses. The only thing preplanned by this fire chief is a bid for cheap sympathy when the worst happens.   The fire chief of Elwood, IL, is determined not to be one of these chiefs. (CLICK HERE)   Chief Bill Offerman of the Elwood Fire Protection District does not give excuses, nor does he accept them. Like the Collins (MS) Fire Department highlighted in the Spring 2012 issue of IFW, the firefighters in...
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Filling the Biggest Shoes - Red Adair Award

International fire consultant David White of College Station received the prestigious Red Adair Award presented by Tyco Williams Fire & Hazard Control in honor of his career in the field of industrial fire fighting.   “The greatest aspect of this award is its tie to Red,” White said. “I presented the first Red Adair Award to Red himself in 1991.”   Adair, who died in August 2004 at age 89, was a highly respected leader in the specialized field of oil well fire fighting. His lengthy career was capped in 1991 when he took a lead role in extinguishing the many oil well fires in Kuwait set by the retreating Iraqi army after the Gulf War.   White, a former instructor at the Texas A&M Fire School, is the owner of Fire & Safety Specialists, a training and consulting firm that has done work in China, India, Libya, South Africa and...
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Dave's Notes - Building the Perfect Team

  What makes you special as an industrial fire and emergency responder? You wear multiple hats. You may be a volunteer brigade member or a paid FD/ERT member. You likely volunteer in your local fire department. You are an unofficial or official ambassador for your company and people ask you lots of questions about how you meet the challenges of your work.   Most of all, what I believe makes you special is that you are always preparing for the unexpected. Most people do their work to achieve specific goals that they can check off reaching. Most of the other people in your refinery or plant know their production output. Your outcome is their safety and the reduction of risks and losses when the unexpected happens.   Over the past 30 plus years I’ve responded to or analyzed many industrial incidents.  No one planned for any of them to happen as...
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