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Training preps firefighters

About 45 area firefighters participated in a joint regional natural-gas-fire training exercise at the Black Forest Fire and Rescue station 1 in May.The Black Forest district is comprised of about 13,000 citizens in 49 square miles; the district has 11 career firefighters and 37 volunteer firefighters.Dave Ury, Black Forest fire chief, said itís better to gain experience through training exercises than through a real emergency.The El Paso County Sheriffís Hazardous Materials Response Team and firefighters from Green Mountain Falls, Palmer Lake and Fountain were also present.The Pikes Peak Firefighters Association Rehabilitation Service provided food and hydration.Training scenarios included a buried pipe broken by an excavator, a pit fire, an above-ground fire, a burning gas meter next to a home, a car fire and a traffic accident that damages a roadside meter.ìAs long as the gas is flowing, our job is to control the fire until the gas is shut off,î said Kathy Russell, Black Forest Fire and Rescue public information officer. ìWe learn to tame the beast.The firefighters practiced hands-on techniques to safely contain and extinguish natural gas leaks and fires, using 20-and-30-pound fire extinguishers refillable in the field. The extinguishers contain a Purple K BC powder and CO2.Black Hills Energy, a natural gas service provider in the Pikes Peak region, facilitated the training, which they hold twice a year in Colorado and Kansas.ìWe teach to not put out a natural gas fire unless in danger,î said Arlen Thompson, a Black Hills Energy safety representative and trainer. ìIf it ignites, that is a different story. The fire department is to contain the fire. Sometimes, it is not as simple as shutting a valve off. A valve can shut off 40 houses.î Firefighters contain the fire until a utility company can shut off the valve.Thompson instructed personnel to ìapproach the fire with the wind at the backî and not to ìchase the flames with the extinguisher.î He recommended the use of a self-contained breathing apparatus based on the departmentís protocol.Residents who are digging on a property to locate a buried utility line can prevent a natural gas emergency by calling 811 ñ 48 hours before they begin digging.According to Black Hills Energy, natural gas has an odor similar to rotten eggs, when a chemical called mercaptan is added. When natural gas is burning and vented properly, it will not have the odor. If there is an odor, however, take the following steps:

  • Exit the premises, leaving the door open; leave windows as they are
  • Donít look for the source of the gas leak or try to correct the problem
  • Use a cell phone outside or go to a neighborís house and call 911
  • Donít strike matches, turn lights or appliances on or off, use the telephone or ring the doorbell

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