Atofina: Downriver firefighter training boosted

After last summer's explosion at ATOFINA Chemicals Inc., Downriver fire departments are beefing up training in industrial fires and upgrading local emergency warning systems.

Officials from the chemical plant will send eight firefighters from the Riverview Fire Department to the Texas A&M Fire School this fall to learn more about extinguishing industrial flames. "When you get into a facility like that, it's a whole new world," said Riverview Fire Marshal Tim Bosman, who received training in April.Among other issues, the firefighters will be taught how to push a chemical fire away from valves in order to shut them down.Pipe systems inside an industrial plant also are used to fight fires instead of trucks.

"As a result, the pressure is a lot higher than what we are use to and it takes a lot more manpower, so it's crucial that we know how to handle ourselves," Bosman said.

The Riverview Fire Department was chosen for the training because ATOFINA is in the community, and the agency will be the first called if an accident occurs. Safety officials from the plant also will be trained to use the fire department's equipment.

"It's a joint effort so that if God forbid another accident happens, everyone will be able to handle things better," Bosman said.

The July 14, 2001, explosion at the plant that makes products used in pharmaceuticals, cosmetics and paints killed three ATOFINA employees.

The incident happened when a valve on a rail car separated, releasing 74 tons of methyl mercaptan and 13 tons of chlorine into the air. Methyl mercaptan is a foul-smelling gas used in the manufacturing of additives for chicken feed and pharmaceutical products.

ATOFINA has agreed to a $6.2-million settlement, which includes money to train the Downriver firefighters. The company has given a total of $200,000 to the communities that were affected -- Riverview, Grosse Ile Township, Trenton and Wyandotte. The communities are using the bulk of the funds to upgrade their emergency response systems and bolster safety education programs.

Officials in Riverview and Grosse Ile agreed to install a new community alert siren system that includes an AM radio station for announcements, and the use of FirstCall Interactive Network Emergency Response Inc., which can make 600 emergency calls to residents' homes at once alerting them of an incident.

600450 Atofina: Downriver firefighter training boosted

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