Ansul hosts ethanol fire training

By Susanne Retka Schill | November 13, 2007
Firefighters near Painesville, Ohio, let eight cars of ethanol burn for over 24 hours after a 30-car derailment set off an explosion and fire Oct. 10. The accident demonstrates the importance of fire safety training as the ethanol industry continues to move more product over the nation's highways and rail. The heightened interest in firefighter training was evident by the full house at a symposium held just a few days later at the Ansul Inc. Fire Technology Center in Marinette, Wis.

A group capped at 80 people, mostly from the Midwest, heard from 15 presenters during the two-day event Oct. 16 and 17. The first day covered ethanol and other alternative fuels, production facilities, transportation, and storage. Presenters included Tim Butters, assistant fire chief for Fairfax County, Va., who highlighted the roles and needs of emergency personnel responding to incidents involving blended fuels, and Katie Roek, attorney at Stoel Rives LLP, who detailed requirements and issues associated with building ethanol plants. The second-day sessions included hands-on training and fire suppression demonstrations.

"An ethanol fire isn't suppressed the same as a gasoline fire, and Ansul wants to make sure that those within the industry understand the differences," said Dennis Kennedy, vice president and general manager of engineered systems and foam products for Ansul. "Without previously encountering an alternative fuels hazard, one can't fully understand what hazards exist or what preparations are needed to suppress it. Many municipalities are unaware that conventional firefighting practices aren't effective on alternative fuel fires. Ansul feels that to safeguard human lives, property and the environment from possible alternative fuels hazards, a proactive step in educating those involved needed to be taken. We feel the symposium was that first step."

Ansul is considering taking its symposium on the road. "The overwhelming response from attendees was that they wish Ansul would do more such events," Kennedy said. "They feel more people need to attend, hear and see what was presented over the two days. They felt the discussions that were started from individuals in various disciplines were invaluable."

Ansul is a premium brand of the Tyco Fire Suppressions Group, a global business of publicly traded Tyco International Inc. Besides a full line of special hazard fire extinguishers, the company offers pre-engineered restaurant, vehicle and industrial systems; fire detection and suppression systems; and a full line of dry chemical, foam and gaseous extinguishing agents. Ansul products are developed and tested at the Ansul Fire Technology Center.