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New fire training device simulates oil and gas blazes

Posted: Tuesday, October 17, 2000

KENAI (AP) -- Firefighters can now battle simulated oil and gas fires at a training institute in Kenai, using a new $245,000 amalgamation of pipes and vessels designed to simulate blazes at sites such as oil refineries and wells.

''It is large and hot,'' said Dave Burnett, director of the Pacific Rim Institute of Safety and Management. ''It really gets hot.''

The prop has mock-ups of oil tanks, gas cylinders and pumps, all designed to go up in flames at the flick of a switch.

The device was installed over the last month and is now in use.

A group from BP Exploration (Alaska) Inc. used the simulator on Thursday for the first time, and was treated to a variety of firefighting situations.

The flames, consuming about 100 gallons of liquid propane a minute, leaped 50 feet into the air in one session, producing the roar of a passing freight train. Despite the intimidating heat, the firefighters marched straight into the teeth of the blaze.

''Normally they attack a fire very quickly,'' Burnett said. ''They want to get it cooled down and controlled right away.''

The fire simulations run Thursday involved primary and secondary fires. The operator ignites flames under simulated propane tanks, which in a normal tank would cause the propane to be vented. Then the so-called vent whistles catch fire.

The drill requires firefighters to dowse the tanks with water, cooling them enough to stop the venting. Then they can attack the primary fire. The entire process is controlled by a computer.

Sensors determine if the tanks have been cooled enough by the water, and if so, the computer automatically reduces the propane flow.

Burnett said BP donated $15,000 toward the construction of the training prop, and consulted on its design.

''BP is pretty committed to this school,'' said BP spokesman Jim Jones, who watched his company's firefighters get their training.

''These are our guys from the North Slope. They all work together, so it's teamwork training, too,'' he said.

The new prop augments the industrial training done in the building fire simulator.

AAI Engineering Support Inc. of Hunt Valley, Md., bought the device. It's a management company that operates the fire training facility under a lease from the city of Kenai.

Burnett said the training is open to any industrial fire brigade that is interested.

Typical clients would come from oil companies as well as municipal fire departments.

Most of the firefighters trained so far at the nearly 3-year-old facility have come from Alaska communities.

So far this year, Burnett said, 475 students have undergone training there.



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