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Dickinson Fire Dept. to host oilfield emergencies class

The oil industry presented a conundrum for local fire departments when it moved back to western North Dakota.

Those small departments were more accustomed to controlling the occasional prairie fires and structure fires and rarely anything related to the oil industry.

While professional crews with specialized training are responsible for suppressing oilfield fires, local crews are often the first ones on the scene, said Bob Sivak, Dickinson Fire Department chief.

"They will probably be expected to respond and to support that type of operation," Sivak said. "They need to at least be able to keep whatever's happening on the site on that site and not have it get out of control and spread way beyond that."

The Dickinson Fire Department is hosting a class called "Responding to Oil Field Emergencies" on Saturday, Sept. 21. It will consist of four hours of classroom work and four hours of hands-on training.

"It's actually a safety class," Sivak said. "The main thrust of the class is to make them aware of the hazards on a site and also aware of what they aren't going to have the potential to do. It's as much to teach them what not to do as to give them some techniques and some hands-on experience in a live fire environment."

The class is free to area firefighters looking to improve their oilfield fire response skills, Sivak said. It was paid for by a grant through the North Dakota Energy Infrastructure and Impact Grant Program.

There are a limited number of seats in the class, Sivak said. Interested area firefighters can register with the North Dakota Firefighters Association.

"For the afternoon session, they need full protective equipment, they need their bunker gear and they need air pack," Sivak said.

The North Dakota Firefighters Association has been involved in the planning of classes since they began two years ago, training director Rob Knuth said.

"The Dickinson Fire Department recognized the growing oil producing businesses that were coming into the area and they applied for a grant and received it, and put together the training props and the lesson plans," Knuth said.

After the success of the Dickinson classes, the Minot Rural Fire Department teamed up with the North Dakota Firefighters Association to purchase a mobile boilover unit to bring some of the same training to departments.

"We've taken the Dickinson classroom and adopted that and Minot Rural through NDFA travels in the western side of the state that's taught at Dickinson," Knuth said, "but we can actually do it at their departments."

Minot Rural purchased the unit last autumn and has held classes all over the Oil Patch, Fire Chief Rex Weltikol said. The first class was in Ray, a small town between Minot and Williston inundated by the oil industry.

"It takes a lot of time and a lot of money for somebody to travel from their home department to Dickinson to take a fire class," Knuth said. "They may only be able to afford to send two or three of their folks to travel."

Having the mobile prop allows local departments to train the majority of their crew on regular meeting nights, Knuth said.

"We brought it in because of all the oil activity west of us," Weltikol said. "We know the need for training out there in the oilfield."

The mobile class not only focuses on oilfield fires, but all flammable liquids, Weltikol said. He expects to travel a lot with the mobile boilover unit a lot this winter.

"The deal with volunteer fire departments is they don't have a whole lot of time in the summertime because most of them are farmers," Weltikol said. "Most of their training is done in the late fall and throughout the winter."

Local fire departments can request a the flammable liquids/boilover simulator class through the North Dakota Firefighter's Association's website at ndfa.net.

In Dickinson, the fire department is looking forward to hosting next Saturday's class.

"We try to do this a couple times a year with grant monies if the money is available," Sivak said. "This year, because of the type of spring we had, we weren't able to do a spring one."

Dickinson Fire Department reminds residents to prevent kitchen fires

The Dickinson Fire Department is joining forces with the nonprofit National Fire Protection Association to remind local residents to prevent kitchen fires during Fire Prevention Week, Oct 6-12, according to a press release.

During this year's fire safety campaign, fire departments will be spreading the word about the dangers of kitchen fires -- most of which result from unattended cooking -- and teaching local residents how to prevent kitchen fires from starting in the first place.

According to research, cooking is the leading cause of home fires. Two of every five home fires begin in the kitchen -- more than any other place in the home. Cooking fires are also the leading cause of home fire-related injuries.

Katherine Grandstrand
I graduated from Bemidji State University in 2007 with a bachelor's degree in mass communcations, from Columbia College Chicago in 2009 with a master's degree in journalism.  
(701) 456-1206
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