By Chris Newbrough
Audrain County Public Information Officer
Twenty-two area firefighters spent all day this past Saturday at the Laddonia POET Biofuels plant learning how to control and put out fires involving ethanol and blended fuels. Firefighters from Laddonia, Farber, Mexico, Jonesburg, Florence, and Fulton Fire Departments and the Civil Air Patrol spent half of the day in the classroom learning about the different chemicals that make up the volatile fuels and the foams used to fight them. The afternoon portion of the class taught different techniques to extinguish fires involving actual live burns with the propellants.
Audrain County Emergency Management Director Steve Shaw says the class offered area fire department members the chance to learn how to fight a dangerous opponent such as ethanol. “These firefighters can now take the knowledge they learned from Saturday’s class back to their respective departments and pass that knowledge on to their fellow firefighters,” he said.
Three members of the Farber Fire Department attended the class. Farber Chief Gary Stubblefield says it was invaluable training. “I liked it,” he said. “There were three of us that attended from the Farber Fire Department (Stubblefield, Robert Devine, and Tony Shade) and I feel we learned a lot. Hopefully, it is something we never have to use, but it is nice knowing we have a bit of knowledge about how to deal with such a situation if we have to.”
Mexico Public Safety Sergeant Russell Sing echoed those sentiments, adding the class was an opportunity for area fire departments to work together in a training situation. “I do think it brought good training not only in the classroom but, it offered good hands-on, practical training on a live fire scene,” he said. “It covered all the different ignitable fuels we might come in contact with when fighting fires of this nature. It was also a great opportunity to work with other fire departments within the area community of firefighters. I feel everyone who attended was able to take away something from both the classroom and the hands-on portions of the course. That will pay big dividends if ever needed in a real-world situation.”
Shaw says that is another important take away from the class … the relationships built.
“For those departments in Audrain County not represented at the class, the hope is the departments that were there will be able to share that knowledge if, and when they need to, to help out a neighboring department with an ethanol or blended fuel fire,” he said.
“We hope that is never the case, but it’s nice knowing there are departments with the knowledge in the area.”
A firefighter in attendance from an area fire department was David Miller, with the Fulton Fire Department. He says the class taught him the importance of how different chemicals work well, and don’t work well, together. “I thought it was a pretty good class,” he said.
“We learned quite a bit about how different foams (used in putting out such fires) work with ethanol and blended fuels.”
The class was sponsored by the Audrain County Emergency Management Agency and the State Emergency Management Agency. SEMA supplied the qualified instructors and the course materials for the class.