Joined: 23 Mar 2007
Location: Freeport, IL
|Posted: Apr 26, 2007 8:36 pm Post subject: Ethanol fire safety concern
|Here's a concern we're going to be hearing more and more as ethanol plants spring up like dandelions all over the Heartland. Note especially the stuff I bolded...nothing against volunteer firfighters, but they just aren't equipped to handle something they can't even see. From the Pratt County Tribune:
|Fire risk poses challenge
By Gale Rose of the Tribune Staff
Published: Wednesday, April 25, 2007 1:08 PM CDT
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The Township 12 response capabilities for fire and rescue at the new Gateway Ethanol Plant will be limited by their equipment and training.
For a normal office fire or for someone who is sick or injured on a ground level, Township 12 will be able to respond and handle the situation.
"We'll put out normal fires and provide ambulance service like we provide for anyone else in the community," said Pratt County Commissioner Dwight Adams.
However, in the event of a plant fire, Township 12 and the surrounding fire districts don't have the capability to fight an ethanol fire.
"There is no putting it out," said Rich Sanders, Township 12 Trustee. "You don't put out an alcohol fire. It's too hot and you can't see the flames."
Sanders met with representatives of Gateway Ethanol to discuss fire protection. They discussed existing equipment, plant fire safety systems and safety concerns for fire and rescue, said Frank Moore, vice president of Gateway Ethanol plant operations.
Township 12 simply doesn't have the type of equipment necessary nor do the firefighters have the training necessary to fight an ethanol fire.
The only thing that could be done in case of a plant fire would be to evacuate the plant and seal the area, Sanders said.
The ethanol plant has numerous safety systems designed into the facility to prevent fire in the first place and to control fire if it ever happens.
They have a fire pump, smoke and fire detectors, a deluge foam system, sprinklers and other systems designed to keep the plant safe, Moore said.
"Safety is our No. 1 priority. Safety is at the top of our list," Moore said. "We will cut no corners (for safety)."
Township 12 also does not have the necessary equipment or training to handle any type of rescue from the tall buildings and structures at the plant site.
"We don't have the equipment and training. It's beyond the scope of what they can do now," Sanders said.
The necessary equipment is expensive and it would require extensive training to perform high-level rescues. One set of repelling ropes cost $10,000, Adams said.
The height of the ethanol plant grain storage tanks and some of the buildings are well beyond the capabilities of Township 12. The problem with fighting fires or making rescues from tall structures has been around for a long time.
The county has several grain elevators that are beyond the reach of Township 12 Equipment. During a grain elevator fire in Sawyer in 2006, firefighters from all the fire districts in the county could only fight the fire from the ground.
There are no trucks in the county or city fire departments with ladder capability so they are extremely limited to their effectiveness on tall structure fires or rescues.
Gateway wants to work with the emergency agencies to be prepared for fire or rescue emergencies at the plant. Gateway will set up a meeting to discuss those issues.
"Gateway is committed to seeing they have the proper equipment and training," Moore said.
Ethanol plant construction continues to aim towards an opening date sometime in late July. The $100 million plant will produce 55 million gallons of ethanol every year. It is located on NE 30th Street between NE 10th Ave. and NE 20th Ave.