Rugby firefighters did just that – fight a fire – during a propane fire training exercise on Monday evening, April 19 at the Pierce County Fairgrounds.
“That’s probably the hardest fire to contend with,’ said Dave Schneibel, Rugby volunteer firefighter and head of the department’s training program. “The heat is so intense and water doesn’t put it out, it just pushes it back. The only thing that puts it out is turning off the valve.”
Cenex Farmers Union set up a propane tree – a device that burns off the fuel – for the department. Teams of seven firefighters then took turns putting water on the flames and shutting off the propane valve.
Six firefighters operate the hoses, three on each side, while one fireman in the middle directs where the flow of water should go. The team gradually makes it way forward until the middle fireman reaches out and turns off the valve.
Jerry Kurtyka, Rugby fire chief, said it takes a coordinated effort in fighting this type of fire and that is why training is so important.
What adds to the challenge is the intense heat that radiates from the flames. The firefighters are decked out in their bunker gear and air packs while battling the fire.
Twenty-five firefighters took part in the training and the Rugby Ambulance squad and Golden Heart Paramedics also were in attendance. Firefighters also toured Farmers Union’s propane distribution facility on the west side of town to become familiar with the setup.
Schneibel said the potential for a propane fire to occur here is a real possibility, and the department must be prepared.
This was the first time in five years the department went through the training, Schneibel said. Ferrellgas provided the special propane tree last time.
Every third Monday of the month the department conducts training exercises to hone its firefighting skills or become more effective emergency responders. Members of the department have also completed advanced training programs in recent years.
“We have a lot of guys that have gone through the training, and for a department our size, we have a lot of experience and skills,’ Schneibel said.
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