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Fire training in Iola

Exercises focus on propane emergencies

By Holly Neumann

Area firefighters were trained in how to respond to propane emergencies Wednesday, May 23, at the Iola Car Show grounds.

Approximately 40 firefighters from Iola, Scandinavia and Ogdensburg, along with propane industry professionals, shared propane safety information, response techniques and mitigation strategies.

The training was hosted by the Iola and Rural Fire Department, in partnership with the Wisconsin Propane Education & Research Council (WiPERC).

“This educational session includes a combination of classroom and live fire training,” said Emma Corning, WiPERC executive director. “During the hands-on portion of the session, firefighters will suit-up and have the opportunity to get tactical experience responding to several different propane emergency scenarios involving a grill, forklift cylinder, bulk storage tank and terminal piping props.”

According to Corning, this type of hands-on training is important.

“What’s great about this program is the fact that it is a combination of classroom and hands-on learning,” she said. “The live fire scenarios offer real life experience, which is incredibly valuable. But the classroom portion of the session is also a critical element of the training.”

To mount a safe and effective response to a propane incident, responders must understand how the product will behave and what harm it can do. These properties play a critical role in how to control and mitigate the incident.

“With propane and other flammable gas fires, the problem isn’t as easy as simply putting the fire out,” said Luke Van Noie, lead instructor for Fire & Industrial Response Enterprises. “Putting the fire out without stopping the flow of gas could cause a far greater problem. The gas may find an ignition source and cause an explosion.”

“Safety is our industry’s top priority,” Corning said. “We are committed to the safety and well-being of our fire service and other emergency responders, as well as the public.”

The program came at no cost to the department.

“This is why it’s so valuable for departments in small and rural communities who are primarily volunteer based,” said Corning. “WiPERC covers the cost of the instructor, meals for the students and the propane used during the demonstration portion of the training. We are able to offer the training during the evenings and sometimes on the weekend to best accommodate the volunteer firefighters.”

This training is designed to help emergency responders develop the knowledge and skills necessary to safely and effectively manage a propane fire emergency.

“Firefighters will walk away with a basic understanding on topics including the physical and chemical properties of propane; applicable standards codes and regulations; types of containers and their features; emergency response procedures; and hands-on tactical experience in five different emergency scenarios,” Corning said.

Scandinavia Fire Chief Bryan Fuhs believed the joint training exercise was an opportunity for area emergency personnel to review procedures to extinguish or contain propane incidents.

“The hazards associated with propane gas are unique and different on every call,” Fuhs said. “The live burn training that was provided allows us to have hands-on training in extinguishing these types of fires.”

Fire chiefs Paula Durrant and Jim Aanstad, of the Ogdensburg/St. Lawrence and Iola & Rural fire departments respectively, agreed.

“The propane fire training is very valuable,” said Aanstad. “It teaches us how to operate safely on various types of propane emergencies.”

“I loved the training,” said Durrant. “It was very helpful because everyone around here has LP gas.”

Van Noie offered advice to area firefighters.

“Stay vigilant. The fire service is a forever expanding and diverse profession,” he said. “Listen to your fire officers and the people who have been on the department a long time as their experiences cannot be learned from a book. Never forget it is a privilege to be a firefighter.”


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