Fire Engineering Training Community

Where firefighters come to talk training

Hey Guys I was wondering if any one was having any problems with ethanol plants. I am in southern MN. and will be having two start up within about two weeks. The one is in our fire dist. the other is only seven miles away. I would like to know if you guys are seeing any problems in the plants that I should address or even with the increase in truck and rail traffic. And if so what are you using to fight the fires, such as arfff foam trailers or just putting it through the truck.
Chris Borchardt
W.F.D. Training Officer

Views: 512

Reply to This

Replies to This Discussion

Chris, my department does not deal with these types of plants but we are getting them in Illinois. I know the state fire academy is offering class' on ethanol fires in vehicles and plants. You can contact them at and they will direct you to the person leading that training. BE SAFE!
I've had one in my district for 3 years now. Problems, yeah you could say that. First off, they got a 20 year tax abatement so we get no financial funding from them at all. Second, they let us take a tour once in a while, but its a "get em in, get em out" tour - they act like we're there to steal industrial secrets (how hard is it to make, honestly). Third, huge increase in truck and rail traffic - unregulated and unmanaged. Next, alone the "secretive" line, we've responded to 2 trench rescues which they didn't report as such. They called them in as unknown accidents. Talk about walking into a mess with no clue.
No luck yet in getting a map or plan of some sort out of them (plan on hitting up OSHA on that one if they don't come through) Finally fires - we've only had one but it was a 14 hour catastrophe. I pulled up on scene - 2nd engine out - only to find their hydrants all had deluge guns attached with no shutoff - which meant having to tear down a hydrant before even setting one up. Meantime, a trucker was filling up his tanker with pure (100%) ethanol across from the fire with not a care in the world. The plant kept operating and meanwhile the manager was all over us to get it out so they could get back in production. Now this was a dryer fire, probably the most common type in an ethanol plant you'll see, and no one ever went about instructing us on how to deal with all the ductwork and other equipment they had all over. It was a mess to say the least. Plus the water pressure - they use a pump that kept messing with our engine's relief valve. It wasn't until we basically ordered them to shut it down that we were able to successfully apply any water.
Foam? Hah - they keep 5 - 55 gallon barrels on the far side of the plant. So essentially we'd have to drive through the entire plant to get to the foam. Not that it'd do any good anyhow - you need to apply such an enormous amount at 6% (NFPA recommended ratio) that we'd run through that in no time at all. I'd suggest if you can, have it on a trailer you work up just for those plants - and have lots of it. Plus several 100gpm eductors to apply it.
I'd recommend on doing a lot of training in the following areas: Foam application (make sure its AR-AFFF at 6%), high angle and confined rescue, building colapse, dust explosions and fires, haz mat (lot of chemicals there you don't see), confined space, building construction, setting up and using ground monitors, setting up and using foam eductors (again, 100gpm flow), plus traffic control, vehicle extrication, railway emergencies. Definately you'll want to cover your basic ICS training and have a good pre-plan of any plants. Get with the plant managers and see if they'll cooperate enough to give you a copy of their emergency action plans plus a layout of their plant on paper. Try to get them to number the entrances to buildings with large signs you'd be able to see from a long distance through binocs. Most importantly, have a good re-hab system set up and practice it - our fire really exhausted our resources on scene (3 departments, nearly 25 men; 2 suffered heat exhaustion and one a steam burn).
I just attended some basic ETOH training at our winter fire school (Iowa). Very informative. Basically, if the tanks are on fire, someone should just run and get some hotdogs as that's all you'll be doing is watching.

Best of luck to you in this

Shaun. Thanks for the info I am currently working with their saftey guy at our plant and so far so good. I just found out that they will be starting up in the first week of june so it is becoming crunch time for me to get things together out there. We are looking at Foam trailers witch will be split between the two plants we have here. if you have any more problems with your plant I would like to here about them.

Thanks, and be safe
On Friday, June 20th 2008 several manufacturers got together at Washington State Patrol Fire Academy in North Bend, WA (about 35 miles east of Seattle, WA) to test and to prove their claims with the latest and greatest fire fighting foams. The manufacturers were Ansul with alcohol resistant AFFF 3x3, Novacool with the UEF 0.4% and Fire Blockade. There were also representatives from F500 but after seeing the props, pools, etc. they decided not to participate in that little contest and after the first fire they simply disappeared. Attendees were Kent Fire Department, Renton Fire Department, Seattle Fire Department, Bellevue Fire Department, Vashon Island Fire Department, Surrey British Columbia and many more. My understanding is that the ethanol for the tests was donated by BP.

The first test was the ethanol fire test. Ansul went first and 3 minutes 24 seconds, after extinguishment the fire reflared and the additional time was not measured. The reading obtained form Foam Pro showed 325 gallons of water used, 8 gallons of foam and there was another 115 gallons used to put the reflash. Novacool UEF 0.4% put out identical fire in 1 minute 46 seconds, Foam Pro reading showed 157 gallons of water used and 2 gallons of foam, no reflash. Third was Fire Blockade, 3 minutes and 28 seconds, the Foam Pro showed 350 gallons of water used and 16 gallons of foam.

The second test was a pool fire using a blend of gas and diesel. Only Novacool and Fire Blockade participated in this test. Novacool UEF put it out in 38 seconds flowing 90-95 GPM. The Foam Pro showed 80 gallons of water used and < 1 gallon of foam with no reflash. When the turn came for Fire Blockade, the pool was not completely on fire and it was announced by one of the captains that Novacool is still present in the pool preventing full ignition. It was agreed by the Novacool guy to give the Fire Blockade people the "go ahead" and the Blockade time was 58 seconds with Foam Pro showing 90 gallons of water and 3 gallons of foam.
The third test was a magnesium test using 8 engine blocks for each manufacturer. Fire Blockade time was 12 minutes and 20 seconds, Foam Pro showed 480 gallons of water used and 18 gallons of foam concentrate. Novacool time was 1 minute 20 seconds, Foam Pro showed 105 gallons of water used and < than 1 gallon of foam.
At the end of the day it was clear that Novacool ( outperformed everything even though the official scorer from one of the neighboring fire departments was trying very hard to improve the image of Fire Blockade by simply trying to kink the times and throwing difficulties at the Novacool tests. The Novacool did what the product claims to do without any "help" and last second adjustments. There were times that were altered and this was proven because most everybody was keeping track of the times.
The foam totals for the day were: Ansul 3x3 used 440 gallons of water and 8 gallons of foam concentrate. Fire Blockade used 920 gallons of water and 37 gallons of foam concentrate. Novacool used 342 gallons of water and only 4 gallons of concentrate. In addition Novacool is UL tested and listed and Fire Blockade is not. Well, here it is. As we saw it.
This testing was just another example of the David vs. Golaith with David winning. What is it going to take for the American fire service to wake up and realize that the Golaith foam makers aren't always the best product for the job? Maybe someday the fire service will get out of the hip pocket of the foam companies and use the best product, not the product with the largest marketing budget.
Hi Chris
You are going to have to stock up on Ansul Thunderstorm OR National Gold ARC foam.
The ammount of concentrate will depend on the hazard size and the application rate needed for either pure ethanol or a blend. Ansul and or National foam will help you with this calculation.
PS a Hydrochem cannon from William's Hazard would be a good idea also.

John Steadman
Broward Fire Equipment
There are some great articles and information at Industrial Fire World Magazine
They are part of the Ethanol Emergency Response Coalition.
I would like to thank everyone for their help and suggestions. Just an up date I live in Welcome MN. the ethanol plant in our town is a Vera sun plant. If you have not heard they aplied for either Chapter 11, or 13 (not positive whitch) They built the Welcome plant and were one hour away from starting when they got the call that they were not starting. That was in June, They still have not started the plant yet today. We as a Fire Dept. are still training like they will be opening soon. Best guess would be next summer at the earliest. Again THANKS for for all the help and please keep the suggestion coming. Be Safe Live Long!! Thanks, Chris Borchardt W.F.D.

Reply to Discussion


Policy Page


The login above DOES NOT provide access to Fire Engineering magazine archives. Please go here for our archives.


Our contributors' posts are not vetted by the Fire Engineering technical board, and reflect the views and opinions of the individual authors. Anyone is welcome to participate.

For vetted content, please go to

We are excited to have you participate in our discussions and interactive forums. Before you begin posting, please take a moment to read our community policy page.  

Be Alert for Spam
We actively monitor the community for spam, however some does slip through. Please use common sense and caution when clicking links. If you suspect you've been hit by spam, e-mail

FE Podcasts

Check out the most recent episode and schedule of


© 2024   Created by fireeng.   Powered by

Badges  |  Report an Issue  |  Terms of Service