Vail Valley first responders learn how to battle natural gas fires | VailDaily.com

Vail Valley first responders learn how to battle natural gas fires

Black Hills Energy offers live flame training to 'make it as realistic as possible'

GYPSUM — When teaching first responders how to deal with a natural gas emergency, Black Hills Energy trainer Alan Thompson believes there’s nothing like a live flame to hammer home his instruction.

“Any time you have fire it’s the best, and not a lot of companies offer this anymore,” Thompson said Tuesday, as winds whipped through an open field just west of the Eagle County Regional Airport. “We try to make it as realistic as possible.”

Gypsum landowner Travis Schramm provided space for Tuesday’s training and both EC alerts and signs stationed along the highway notified passersby that a training, not an actual emergency, was underway.

Tuesday’s session was one of two gas fire sessions that Black Hills Energy will conduct in Colorado this year. The natural gas company provides the trainer and about 50 pounds of fuel and invites first responders from throughout the region. Tuesday’s Eagle County event included representatives from the Eagle River Fire Department, the Gypsum Fire Department, the Greater Eagle Fire Department, Colorado River Fire Rescue, Eagle County Airport Rescue and Firefighting, the Colorado Department of Transportation and the Vail Fire Department.

Ready when the call comes

Participants learned how to contain and extinguish natural gas fires through scenarios that included a buried pipe broken by an excavator, an obstructed fire, a regulator station fire, a burning meter next to a building and a vehicle on fire after striking a meter.

“Typically, we don’t want to put a fire out,” Thompson said, noting that it is safer and more effective to cut off the natural gas source to extinguish a blaze. However, there are times when lives are at stake so the company wants to have emergency personnel trained on how to respond to fires involving natural gas.

Tuesday also gave emergency workers the opportunity to use Purple-K fire extinguishers — potassium bicarbonate-based dry chemical extinguishers that are effective in attacking fires involving flaming liquids and gasses.

As a volunteer firefighter himself for his home town in Louisburg, Kansas, Thompson said he knows the value of bringing together natural gas company representatives and first responders.

“We want to have a familiarity with each other and how we work, if or when we do have a call.”