SEBRING — The City of Sebring Fire Department took on additional training this week in the form of a walk-through at Coker Fuel at 3515 U.S. 27 South. Capt. Austin Maddox and Assistant Fire Chief Dirk Riley accompanied groups of firefighters of different shifts at the department.

“As firefighters and a fire department, we do fire inspections,” Maddox said. “We also go out as a shift and we do walk-throughs. We get a layout and map of any fire hydrants and water sources.”

An appointed firefighter will designate on a property map the locations of hydrants, shut-off valves, areas where customers are likely to be and where areas of special concerns are likely to be. Photographs may accompany the layout plans. Maddox said he is working on getting digital tablets for each truck so a firefighter can pull up the location as part of the pre-fire plan.

“We put firefighters inside the buildings so they know what they need to do, or a plan of attack,” Maddox said. “It gives us an advantage — not going in blind.”

“During the walk-through, we determine who to call in case of an emergency and how to get inside the building,” Maddox said. “We need to know if there are keys in a Knox box near an entrance. If there isn’t one, we may recommend it so we don’t cause damage when we are trying to get in by breaking a window.

Coker Fuel owner Jerry Melendy greeted the firefighters Tuesday morning and shared some of his experience with them. Operations Manager Rich Ramos informed the crew of the properties and differences between propane gas, or vapor and propane liquid. He said dealing with a vapor fire is easier than dealing with a propane liquid fire.

Ramos also gave instruction and safety tip sheets on propane dispensing, “Basic Characteristics of Propane,” and information on what labels should be on tanks, both portable and large tanks. Ramos said tanks are never filled more than 80% because of pressure expanding in the heat.

Valves were talked about in detail on how to find leaks and determine the “open” and “close” on new and older valve styles.

The firefighters and Ramos toured the properties at the U.S. 27 and Hawthorne Drive location. The former location has a retail office and and propane tanks to the west of the building, which is also where gas grill tanks are filled.

Ramos showed the first responders where the shut-off valves were and demonstrated how they worked. Ramos showed the group how to trigger a sprinkler system for some tanks. He pointed out where the filled tanks are and where the empty tanks are kept.

Ty Moss demonstrated the transference of gas from one tank to another. In the process, he burned off excess vapor. Flames shot out of a tall pole that resembled giant flame thrower.

“I am so glad you are here,” Moss said.

He thanked the department for its interest in what they do at Coker Fuel and how to keep them all safe in an emergency.

The tour led to a Coker Fuel truck with a large tank on it. Ramos pointed out the shut-off feature on different areas on the truck. The safety signs from the manufacturer were read and explained in case of an accident.

The last stop on the tour was to the Hawthorne Drive Plant where the massive 30,000-gallon tank and 18,000-gallon tanks are located.

Maddox wanted the newer firefighters to get more knowledge in order to be more confident with propane and to learn the layout of the company in case they ever get called out to a fire, such as the one at Kosan Crisplant Inc. in April.

Firefighter Erving Cruz has been with the department for seven months and he was grateful for the extra training.

“This absolutely helped me. I had a basic knowledge of propane from fire school,” he said. “This helped me with what the valves and what to do and not to do. This is a small segment of the continuing education we do every shift.”

Riley was thrilled with the tour and additional education his firefighters received.

“The department wants to thank Coker Fuel,” he said. “They really opened up their facility to us. The personnel were very knowledgeable and answered all of our questions. They did not have to do it.”


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