November Roundtable: Training with Industrial Fire Brigades

By John “Skip” Coleman

Toledo, Ohio, is an industrial city that was tied to the auto industry. Known as the Glass Capitol, we made automobile glass (windshields and other windows) for automobiles manufactured 50 miles to the north in Detroit, Michigan. Later, fiberglass was invented and Owens Corning was founded in the city. Several other large plants put down roots in Toledo, including a Jeep plant that made vehicles for the war in the early 1940s. Needless to say, Toledo has had it’s share of large multiple alarm fires in the vast and complicated industrial facilities. 

Industrial fire brigades contained in this typeo of faciliy are an excellent resource to get to know and understand. They are trained to keep incipient fires small and under control until our arrival and to assist us if the later fails for whatever reason. NFPA 600 outlines the conditions of their existence. 

As training chief in the late ’80s and again in the early 2000s, we drilled with specific industrial facilities. Generally, when no recruit classes were being conducted, we organized drills and walk-throughs with first-out stations and brought certain brigades out to our training tower for live burn evolutions. In fact, our training facility was partially funded by some of these industrial companies with the provision that they be able use the facility when it was available.

As one who has responded to many of these fires, I can say that I certainly relied on the expertise of the plant personnel to help sort the complexities of these fires. Because of my stints in training and working with specific brigade members, I know many of them by name at a few fires, which was a big help.

Which brings us to this month’s question: Does your department participate regularly in drills with the industrial fire brigades in your community? Please post your responses in the comments section below.

John “Skip” Coleman retired as assistant chief from the Toledo (OH) Department of Fire and Rescue. He is a technical editor of Fire Engineering; a member of the FDIC Educational Advisory Board; and author of Incident Management for the Street-Smart Fire Officer (Fire Engineering, 1997), Managing Major Fires (Fire Engineering, 2000), and Incident Management for the Street-Smart Fire Officer, Second Edition (Fire Engineering, 2008).

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