APPLE CREEK - Flames shooting more than 30 feet into the air at the site of an oil tank.
A gas leak ignited at the shutoff valve, spraying several feet of flames.
Not exactly the scenario a firefighter wants to be called to, but that was just the case this weekend for 40 firefighters from across Ohio.
KEVIN PIERSON The Marietta Times
Firefighters, including Belle Valley Volunteer Fire Department's Dave McKee and Eric Clark, work to extinguish a blaze on an oil tank during a training exercise at the Wayne County Fire & Rescue Regional Training facility Sunday afternoon.
The catch is, the fires weren't real emergencies. They were controlled.
Representing 28 fire departments from all parts of the state, 40 firefighters took part in a weekend training exercise for oilfield emergencies at the Wayne County Fire & Rescue Regional Training Facility in Apple Creek.
With an expected boom in the oil and gas industry expected due to the exploration of marcellus and utica shale, more and more wells are expected to become fixtures of the Mid-Ohio Valley, prompting a strong interest in being prepared for emergencies in the oilfields.
40 firefighters from 28 different fire departments participated in oil and gas fire training at the Wayne County Fire & Rescue Regional Training Facility.
Responding to drilling and production site emergencies were covered.
Resources available for responding to gas and oil fires were also covered.
There are currently 4,485 producing wells in Washington County.
There have been 15,075 wells drilled in Washington County historically.
Source: Ohio Oil and Gas Energy Education Program
"The way the industry is going, we felt there was a need to obtain information on how to fight some of these fires," said Belle Valley Volunteer Fire Department Capt. Dave McKee.
Four volunteer firefighters from Belle Valley, located slightly north of Caldwell in Noble County, were among the firefighters to take part in the training program. The training for the quartet was funded by Eclipse Resources.
The two day workshop included classroom work on Saturday, before the training was taken to the field where controlled burns were used for roughly six hours on Sunday.
"We're going to go away from here with a lot better information on how to fight these fires," said Belle Valley volunteer firefighter Eric Clark.
Firefighters spent the early morning hours Sunday fighting small blazes at places like gas lines and small, oil tanks.
Emergencies such as natural gas blowing but not burning were covered as well as the fires, which included crude oil leaks and spills as well as natural gas fires underneath the rigs.
All the training took place on roughly 60 acres of land, with training props ranging from the oil and gas rigs to a mock mall and trench rescue.
"They call it (Wayne County Fire & Rescue Regional Training Facility) Disney World for firefighters, said Rhonda Reda, executive director of the Ohio Oil and Gas Energy Education Program.
The proposed drilling in the marcellus and utica shale regions has prompted many first responders to begin preparing for emergencies in the field, but this weekend's training covered more than just injection wells and fracking, firefighters said.
"A lot of the training we just did is stuff you drive past every day," Clark said.
With many oil wells already in the county, Noble County firefighters realize the need to prepare, even though in many respects they're already ahead of the game.
"We're fortunate," said Belle Valley Volunteer Fire Department Lt. Mark Wilson Sr. "We've been around gas wells our whole lives. A lot of departments haven't."
Sunday afternoon, firefighters were taught how to extinguish a large blaze at an oil tank, where 80 barrels of crude oil was ignited.
With flames shooting 30 to 40 feet in the air, firefighters advanced to the blaze using a fog pattern, or a widespread mist, while additional crew supported from the side with streams of water.
After advancing to the oil tank and pushing the flames away from the firefighters with the water, the groups would retreat to safety, only to switch firefighters and do it again.
"We're gaining a lot of information up here," McKee said. "You're training with the individuals that actually know what this is about."
Use of fog patterns in certain situations was one of the areas firefighters said they saw tremendous benefit.
By using the fog pattern as they approached a controlled fire at a gas leak, firefighters were able to push the flames away from them so they could reach the gas shutoff valve, thereby removing the source of the blaze. Other techniques would not allow firefighters to approach the shutoff valve, Wilson noted.
"Straight stream ain't going to do it," he said.
Learning those types of techniques was a worthwhile endeavor for firefighters, McKee noted.
In 12 years of existence, more than $1 million has been spent on firefighter training through the Ohio Oil and Gas Energy Education Program's oilfield emergency workshops.
More than 800 fire departments have sent firefighters to the workshop from seven different states, including as far away as Texas, Reda said.
"I'd advise any department to send guys up here," McKee said.