02/05/10 191 W, 1 I - + 6 - 6 ConAgra Blast Could Lead to New Safety Laws

Today's News & Observer has a recap of yesterday's meeting of the U.S. Chemical Safety Board in Raleigh, which voted to recommend to changes to national fire codes to prevent the type of explosion that occurred at the ConAgra plant in Garner on June 9, 2009. The blast killed four people, and injured 67 others. The unsafe practice cited by the board is purging natural gas inside a structure. They cited other similar explosions that have killed or injured others. Read the article. There's also more detailed information in this CSB press release, issued late yesterday.

Garner and Raleigh fire departments responded that day, along with numerous units from Wake, Garner, Eastern Wake, and Cary EMS. NC USAR Task Force 8 was also deployed. The incident extended over a couple days. We blogged about the units on scene, which numbered five engines, four ladders, four rescues (RFD, GFD, GEMS), five USAR units, four haz-mat units, two command posts (RFD, WCEM), air truck, fuel truck, fifteen-plus ambulances, additional paramedic units, and an EMS special ops unit. Photos were posted by Mike (below) and by Lee.

Updated with incident recap info and links.
Legeros - 02/05/10 - 07:57

Does it really take injury, death, and study/investigation to tell a person not to vent a flammable gas into a confined or poorly ventilated space? Do I give the human race too much credit? Is further sampling of the “gene pool” necessary?
J.Boggs - 02/05/10 - 10:39

You’re 100% right Jason – I agree!! It is amazing how we are too reactive as a society and prone to repeat our past experiences (good or bad). For comparison, here’ a perspective for all: Imagine what our fire jobs would be like if we placed the effort/budget we pour on “fire operations” into “fire prevention and education.” Indeed, “we” may be part of the overall “fire” problem too(?). Fascinating….
A.C. Rich - 02/05/10 - 12:11

Been saying that for a while…look at european countries that focus their efforst on prevention- LOW fire deaths and loss.
J.Boggs - 02/05/10 - 16:45

This compelling article on culture change appeared in the October issue of Firehouse, http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_hb..

It’s powerful stuff.
Legeros - 02/05/10 - 18:56

This quote alone could spark a week’s discussion, from the above article: “What do you see when you walk around your station? Pictures of major blazes your department has battled? Pictures of your firefighters in heroic poses on handlines or sitting in rehab with soot-stained faces or, worse, pictures of your firefighters posing inside or in front of what was once someone’s home, now turned nightmare? Do you display melted or blackened helmets? Melted light bulbs or other melted items taken from someone’s tragedy? What is that saying about your department’s value system?”
Legeros - 02/05/10 - 19:08

What is it saying? Volumes, Mike. Volumes. Not only the department’s values as a whole, but many of the individuals’ values as well. But then, the same thing can be said about my gig. What do we talk about or look back on doing? Intubations, chest decompressions, crics, OB deliveries, MVCs, GSWs, etc. How about the time we spent educating someone to take care of themselves, working with family members to manage some new health crisis, etc.? You ain’t got to be an APP or some other ‘special’ medic to do it. It’s just the same value system. It ain’t ‘fun’.
DJ - 02/05/10 - 19:20

There’s obvious irony in this discussion, as my talent extends to creating fire suppression iconography. Prevention versus suppression. Such very different animals. Culture is probably only one piece. Wonder what’s displayed in military barracks? Imagery of war, or messages of peace? Maybe both? Fascinating.
Legeros - 02/05/10 - 19:44

A.C. Rich - 02/05/10 - 21:43

Farmers versus hunters, http://sethgodin.typepad.com/seths_blog/..

Does prevention=farming and suppression=hunting?

Might be a stretch, but you probably get my point. Two different types of activities, and perhaps two entirely differently types of people who excel therein. Heck, you might drawn the comparison between line and command personnel.

It’s more than culture, it’s perhaps the very being?

Wonder if any cities in the United States have flip-flopped the model? With exponentially larger prevention than suppression staffs? Probably can’t be done, given the economics of insurance ratings. Maybe in commercial or industrial settings it applies? Again, fascinating.
Legeros - 02/06/10 - 08:59

Interesting discussion. Quick little story: My younger sister is now in college at UNC-Asheville and they have had two arson cases (1 off and 1 on-campus) within the last few weeks. Not saying that fire/arson prevention efforts have completely failed, but why do kids think it is okay to start fires in occupied apartment complexes and endanger many lives, including my family? I don’t care what the circumstances are, that is just stupid. Anyone that believes fire/arson prevention efforts are running us out of the job needs to reconsider why you got into the field in the first place. Sorry, end of my rant.
BFD1151 - 02/06/10 - 15:39

What’s really interesting to me is the discussion that the explosion at the power plant in CT may have been caused by purging gas lines.
RWECC - 02/08/10 - 11:51

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