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New technology helps CCFD battle grain elevator fire

Posted at 5:13 AM, Feb 14, 2019
and last updated 2019-02-14 07:23:36-05

On Monday, the Corpus Christi Fire Department worked all day to contain and extinguish a grain elevator fire near Up River Road.

This fire was very technical and complex with significant danger.

The Corpus Christi Fire Department has not had an incident of this nature since the 1981 grain elevator fire.

The fire is believed to have started when a couple of bearings in the conveyor belt wore out and sent sparks into the grain dust silo. It took the Fire Department 13 hours to extinguish.

“Grain elevator fires cause explosions, and explosions is what kills people. In fact, this community, back in 1981, had a major grain explosion where there were numerous fatalities. The opportunity that the Fire Department has, is that we are able to look at past incidents and learn from what happened, train our individuals, our hazardous team, and our leadership to mitigate circumstances like this when they happen again,”said CCFD Chief Robert Rocha.

The greatest danger was the grain dust; it is highly explosive when aerated. Five hundred pounds of grain dust is like a stick of dynamite. The silo contained 50,000 pounds.

“We were able to use thermal imaging cameras on our drone in order to pinpoint where the hot spot was located. In the past, firefighters were often blind where the danger was, but through the utilization of new technology, we were able to determine where the hot spot was and develop a plan in order to keep dust down and to lessen the danger to the firefighters,” said Rocha.

These incidents allow the Fire Department to use new technology and learn new tactics and patience.

“And fortunately the Fire Department was able to utilize all of those elements to put together and formalize a plan to address a very dangerous situation,” said Rocha.

The potential for danger can never be eliminated entirely, but you can always be prepared.

“The majority of the calls that the Fire Department goes on are medical calls and fire calls. We also respond to hazardous material calls within the community and training and understanding what the hazards are, are very important to us as leaders to make sure that we don’t get anybody hurt, and that we execute a plan in order to mitigate danger, and make sure everybody goes home safe,” said Rocha.

Moving forward the Corpus Christi Fire Department says working and training closely with other agencies will only help keep the community safe.