Fire department puts training into practice at energy plant fire


Bridgeport firefighters responded to a fire at the Bridgeport Energy plant on Nov. 8.

Ongoing training was put into action Nov. 8 as firefighters responded to a fire at the Bridgeport Energy plant on Atlantic Street in the city’s South End.

The fire was not large, but the location inside the plant was difficult for firefighters to access.

“The problem was the access to it,” Assistant Fire Chief Richard Thode said.

The fire happened inside a 54-inch cool-water pipe that workers were welding with a torch. The pipe was empty and the heat melted the rubber interior lining in the pipe and caused a smoldering fire.

At the time, the plant was closed down for planned maintenance so the incident didn’t cause any disruption in operations and will not delay the time frame for it being put back into service.

According to plant manager John Klopp, workers immediately implemented their emergency plan. “Everything worked like it was supposed to.”

The fire department responded with a confined space operation. The fire was about 30 feet into the 54-inch elevated pipe, requiring a confined space operation utilizing specialized rescue equipment, including airline respirators and the firefighters tethered to ropes.

Firefighters had to climb about 40 feet up to access the pipe. Several firefighters traversed a catwalk to reach the area where the fire originated. Others worked to put water inside the pipe to extinguish the problem.

The heat inside the pipe reached 200 degree at one point.

“This was truly a case of training and preparation paying off,” Thode said.

Earlier this week, the fire department was at the plant conducting confined rescue training in coordination with the plant. As part of the operation, plant officials and fire training officials placed a dummy about 60 feet up on scaffolding inside a massive boiler. Firefighters responded and were tasked with executing a technically challenging “rescue.”

“They have us there quite a bit, setting up all sorts of scenarios,” Fire Chief Brian Rooney said. “That is absolutely key when responding to an actual incident. That makes us familiar with the layout. It makes us familiar with the company’s protocols. It makes us familiar with the personnel. And it provides invaluable training for our firefighters, who have to be prepared to do their jobs under every imaginable circumstance.”

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