Texas A&M Engineering Extension Service (TEEX) – College Station, Texas

TEEX 4“Every participant should complete this fire school with the knowledge, understanding, and demonstrate proficient ability to safely execute live fire training scenarios addressing the following elements:  Incident Command; Tactics & Strategy; Master Streams; Hose Streams, Hydraulics; Foam Application; Extinguishing Agents; SCBA Use.

Tex1That was on the front page of the program for the fire training that Lieutenant Shane McCoy and Master Firefighter Mike Rose attended at College Station, Texas this past week.

One side of each training book page listed on the left  side what would be learned and on the right side what they called “take home points”.

The instructors were seven refinery Fire Chiefs from  all across the nation.

Here is the full story of the training told by Master FF Mike Rose:

IMG_0401El Dorado Firefighters were able to experience another dimension of firefighting this past week. Lieutenant Shane McCoy and Master Firefighter Mike Rose had the opportunity of a life time this past week and it was all made possible by the Holly Frontier Corporation. Holly Frontier invited two firefighters from the El Dorado Fire Department to participate in their Corporate Fire School at Texas A&M University in College Station, Texas. The long 9 hour dry to College Station was the easiest and most boring part of the adventure. After arriving, on Monday evening, we met up with six guys from the El Dorado Refinery and 54 guys from other Holly Refineries. These gentleman traveled from Wyoming, New Mexico, Utah and several other states with one particular goal in mind. The goal was to learn more about Refinery firefighting and to improve your essential skills. As everyone set down to dinner, it reminded me of Holidays with my family. Everyone was talking, joking and laughing and the unique part of the whole situation was that we just met less than 2 hours before dinner. As I was lying on my bed, I had feelings of anxiety, self-doubt and wandering what was I doing at a place like this, or am I going to embarrass myself tomorrow at the training facility. What do I know about refinery firefighting?

IMG_1959Tuesday, 7 a.m comes early and as we set in the room to discuss the daily itinerary, I noticed that Shane and I weren’t alone, we had brothers from other municipal departments from around the country. The Holly Fire Chiefs divided the group into two teams and my self-confidence went into the toilet. Shane and I have known each other for a while and now we found ourselves on different teams with people we didn’t know. I know this doesn’t sound like much, but in the firefighting world, you trust your co workers like a child trusts his parents. Shane knows what my skill level is and I know the exact same things about Shane. So, in other words, I felt like a school age kid on his first day of kindergarten, not knowing what to expect. We approached the first prop, a bunch of pipes, valves, stairway to a second story and a couple racks of fire hose. No big deal, we assembled hose line teams and I was put in charge of handling the nozzle for the first training evolution. Wow, you can only imagine the thoughts that crossed my mind and then they ignited the propane prop which also had flammable liquid similar to gasoline. A seasoned veteran was right behind me and assured me that everything was going to be ok. Structural firefighting is so different and I was about to find out why in less than 30 minutes. In structural firefighting, we extinguish the fire using water in a rapid manner. In Industrial firefighting, we manipulate the fire with hose streams, meaning push the fire in a desired direction, and take the fuel from the fire by turning off a valve. No fuel for the fire to burn, means no more fire. We approached the first valve with a wide fog pattern and pushed the fire away from the valve and the nozzle ended up only inches away from the valve handle. The team leader turned the valve off and we backed away from the fire. You would be working on extinguishing the fire on these props and what seemed only like 15 minutes, in reality was 1 hour and 15 minutes and you were exhausted. On Tuesday alone, it seemed like we shut down 100 valves with fire impinging on each valve and a fine water mist covered my face mask, impairing my vision. Each training prop became more difficult than the next and offered new challenges, that neither Shane or I had experienced before.

Wednesday, same as Tuesday, or at least I thought it was going to be close. If I could describe Wednesday in one word, it would be Foam. We learned about the capabilities and inabilities of foam. We applied foam to all different kinds of fuel fires, some were leaking from tank cars, trucks and fuel storage tanks. A foam blanket covers the fire and smothers the oxygen from the fire, extinguishing the fire. A small hole in a foam blanket caused by an extinguisher or nozzle can have life threatening consequences, so caution had to be used when operating firefighting equipment. Just like Tuesday, we were on the training grounds at 7 a.m. and finished fighting fire around 4:30 p.m. Eight hours of being in full gear, SCBA and the weather was a wonderful 80 degrees. Days like this, remind you of why you chose this profession.

Thursday, was a true test of courage and character. We started the day off at 5 a.m. on the training grounds and ready to prove to the instructors that we were capable of completing any job that was assigned. Firefighting is strenuous job and even the simplest task can become almost impossible to achieve, but add the fact that it is pitch black outside, now you have taken the job to the next level. You rely on sensation more than sight and the black valve that was easily seen during the day, is hidden in the shadows of over turned rail cars. The bright orange flames become distractive, lighting up the sky but the fuel valve remains hidden in the darkness. As daylight approaches, you realize that the training prop was simple to operate but the night time darkness impaired your vision just enough to make the operation seem impossible. Team work, encouragement and guidance from Instructors, team members, co-workers and friends made the impossible feat a reality. The last challenge was for us to assemble team member to attack a huge amount of fire on what seemed to be a single prop. Sixty firefighters working against the clock to beat impossible odds as the Instructors stood by and evaluated our performance. Just as the last fire was extinguished, another prop would ignite and the process would start all over again. So, remember at the first, I said it took 1 hour and 15 minutes to extinguish one prop on the first day, we extinguished 3 props within an hour and the fire was more intense than anything we encountered on the first day. This experience gave Shane and I the knowledge, skills, courage and drive to become better firefighters. Most importantly, it helps us better serve the citizens of El Dorado, and the employees of Holly Frontier Refinery. Friendships were built, memories were made and a new love for this job was all acquired in four days of training. I would like to say “Thank You” to Holly Frontier Refinery, Fire Chief Moody, Captain Max Brown and the City of El Dorado for allowing me to attend this wonderful training at Texas A&M University. I encourage all firefighters, young and old to attend any training offered at TEEX.

It was a whirlwind trip.  The two got back at 1:00 am this morning.

Holly Frontier paid for all of both Mike and Shane’s expenses.  An expense that otherwise wouldn’t have been doable.  The “take home points” were many

And Mike said, “The training was incredible.  Easily the best he has ever attended.”

 

 

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