Firefighters train to battle propane tank fires

Published 11:44 pm Saturday, April 28, 2012

Firefighters from city and volunteer agencies in three counties trained in controlling propane tank fires at Picayune Memorial High School.

Flames could be seen shooting several feet in the air Thursday night as the trainees prepared to put their skills to the test in controlling and extinguishing a simulated propane tank fire.

Steven Baldwell with the State Fire Academy said the training, hosted by the Pearl River County Fire Coordinator and the Picayune Fire Department, trained volunteer and full-time firefighters in how to cool and approach a fully involved propane tank before safely turning off the valve.

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The training involved three groups of three firefighters each pouring thousands of gallons of water on the simulated propane tank fire that could reach up to 3,000 degrees Fahrenheit before the firefighters could get close enough to safely turn a valve. Baldwell said the objective of the training was to prepare them for a situation that, while rare, is very dangerous.

Teams also learned how to communicate with firefighters from other agencies, a skill that will help them in situations where multiple agencies work together to contain and extinguish a fire, Baldwell said.

Proper water pumping procedures for a propane tank fire also were taught during the training. Baldwell said access to Picayune fire hydrants and fire department’s equipment helped achieve the water pressure needed for the training.

Training such as this is conducted by the State Fire Academy about nine times per year in various regions of the state, Baldwell said. This training session included firefighters from Picayune, Poplarville, several Pearl River County volunteer fire departments and firefighters from Harrison and Hancock Counties.