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March 14, 2004 10:01 PM

Firefighters React To Ethanol Fire

This kind of fire call is one that raises questions for local fire departments. Tea Assistant Fire Chief Grant Vanriesen says, "When you think of the ethanol plant and something of that scale, are we prepared? You start to think about fire flows." As firefighters pulled into the Great Plains Ethanol plant, they saw the flames, and knew they were in for a long fight. Oberle says, "When you've got a fire, and you're on scaffolding, metal grates so many stories in the air. From my aspect, I worry about my guys and the visibility and a bunch of other stuff." Vanriesen says, "We ran into a lot of heat and steam and the corn seemed to burn really hot. It was in a confined area, and when you put water on it, it expands and you get a lot of heat out of the hole you're putting the water into." Another concern was keeping the fire away from ethanol and the alcohol that's used to make it. Vanriesen says, "When you're talking alcohol fires, you're talking firefighting foams. You can't just fight that stuff with water. It was a bad situation, but it was a lot better that it was this and not alcohol The plant had its grand opening one year ago tomorrow, and the Tea Fire Department says this is the first fire at Great Plains that they're aware of.
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