Black HIlls Energy, area firefighters team up for gas fire training
Natural gas fires may not be a common occurrence for Webster City firefighters. But, nonetheless, they need to be prepared.
To prepare for the possibility of a natural gas fire, Black Hills Energy partnered with the Webster City Fire Department and other local fire departments to train firefighters on how to approach and control natural gas fires in an array of situations.
“It’s not a common occurrence,” said Arlen Thompson, a safety professional with Black Hills Energy and the instructor for the training. “It happens, but it’s not common. Very few have probably been to a natural gas fire.”
Approximately 45 firefighters from fire departments in Webster City, Williams, Duncombe, Woodstock, Blairsburg, Stanhope and Jewell, attended the training on Thursday evening near the industrial park south of Webster City.
“One of the things we’re really going to stress tonight is we only put gas fires out when there’s life safety involved,” Thompson said. “Otherwise we let them burn.”
Five stations simulated different situations the firefighters might face when responding to a natural gas fire.
The first simulated a situation where an underground gas line had been hit and ignited. Thompson showed the firefighters how to extinguish the fire using a “Purple-K” powder extinguisher.
Another station showed the firefighters how hot a gas fire can burn and how burned objects nearby can reignite just by being so hot.
The third station simulated an above-ground gas fire that may be on a service main.
The firefighters also learned how to contain a gas fire that may be next to a structure like a house. In this situation, the firefighters would want to contain rather than extinguish the fire.
“When the fire is burning, you know where the leak is located, where the gas is coming from,” Thompson said. “If you put the fire out, you don’t know where the gas is coming from.”
The grand finale, however, was a simulated car fire. The simulation was what the firefighters might encounter if a car runs over an above-ground service station and igniting.
Thompson, a volunteer firefighter with 30 years’ experience, also sees the training as an opportunity for the fire departments and Black Hills Energy technicians to get to know each other without the added stress of an actual fire.
“It gets those guys to meet those guys in a setting that’s pretty laid back and relaxed and not on the scene of a fire,” he said.
With natural gas in just about every home in Webster City, WCFD Capt. Brandon Hayes sees the value of this extra training for his firefighters.
“The potential of a natural gas fire is there, so any time there is a potential of a fire, we like to train in that area,” he said. “We did have a natural gas fire earlier this year, so it stemmed the need to retrain on this. Black Hills was gracious enough to put this training together for us.”
Hayes said while there were no problems when the department responded to the natural gas fire earlier this year, it still doesn’t hurt to get that extra training.
“We want to be prepared for anything that happens,” he said. “Knock on wood, we haven’t had any problems, but you still have to be prepared.”