Firefighters train for natural gas leak fires

CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) - It's a different type of firefighting, where water or foam suppression may not put out the fire. Charleston firefighters took part in a training exercise, as firefighters go up against a natural-gas fueled fire.

SCE&G power company partnered up with the Charleston Fire Department to provide the training. The power company installed a gas-fueled line and propane storage tank for the firefighters to train on.

With gas lines powering residents and businesses throughout the Lowcountry, fire and power crews say they will be ready.

"We contain it, if we can't get to the initial fuel source. We keep the area isolated. We protect the citizens from any exposures that may be involved and we sit and wait until SCE&G comes and turns off the fuel," CFD head of training Battalion Chief Mark Davis said.

The power company supplied the CFD training facility with a gas line and water basin to show a rolling fire on water and a gas filled propane tank, and then firefighters ignited the fuel sources for training.

In Charleston, SCE&G and the fire department are both first responders when gas leaks are called in. SCE&G says it responds to more than 1000 gas leak calls a year. Not all the calls end up being a gas leak and not all incidents end up catching fire, but fire crews are on standby ready to spring to action should a gas fire go out of control.

"It makes sense for the two of us to partner to have a training prop that gives them the opportunity to train on a fuel that could impact them on a daily basis," SCE&G gas operations division manager Cedric Green said.

It's then up to the power company to turn off the ignition source, which is the gas line, and then the fire is extinguished.

In addition to gas leak fire training, CFD trains year-round for various situations. An upcoming training project is the Wildland Urban Interface, where Charleston firefighters join will with other departments to learn specific techniques in handling a wildfire.

CFD says its training facility and SCE&G gas line simulations are open to all departments who need extra gas leak fire training.

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