How do firefighters train to fight massive chemical fires?

By Mario Diaz - Reporter

DEER PARK, Texas - The ITC fire in Deer Park was fueled by the unknown for many in its early hours.

As Houston and the surrounding areas watched the fire burn for days, questions arose. One of the primary questions: How do firefighters train to fight a fire like this?

For years, many firefighters along the ship channel and beyond have experienced training at the Texas A&M Engineering Extension Service.

The grounds, which are located in the shadows of Kyle Field, are vast. Nearly 300 acres of various real life replicas and scenarios are at the ready.

"All designed for first responders,” according to Chief Robert Moore, the division director of the fire training field.

Nearly 75,000 first responders from across the globe trained at the facility in 2018. Many learning to fight various specialized blazes including tank fires.

"These are the type of tanks or props that we use to train the Cima response teams,” Moore said during a recent tour.

Channel Industries Mutual Aid firefighters were involved in battling last week's ITC fire. The firefighters at TEEX are all trained by firefighters who understand the unique challenges plants, refineries and storage facilities pose.

"All of our instructors that teach industrial firefighting came from industry. So they know what they are doing and how to teach it," Moore said.

Moore has fought fires for over 43 years, the last 23 at the Brayton training field.

Times are changing for the better regarding industrial fires.

"You don't have the large fires, chemical fires refinery type fires that you had in the late '80s, early '90s," Moore said.

Moore attributes the changes to the rise in technology. However, to keep firefighters on their toes, TEEX caliberates their props frequently to present new challenges.

"It's going to burn in a different location than it did last year,” Moore said.

While officials work the investigation into the ITC fire, Moore said information from the incident will eventually flow to their facility.

"I do anticipate that we are going to receive information from their investigation on what caused the fire. We will also talk to some of the responders that were there to talk about their response and we will utilize all that information as an education to the firefighters the industrial firefighters coming in for training," Moore said.

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