July 25, 2018 — Rural fire departments say that mutual aid from volunteers and neighboring departments is critical to fighting oil field explosions, fires, and accidents.

Fire Department Capt. James Schroeder of Kingfisher, Oklahoma said relying on neighboring departments is paramount, according to The Journal Record.

As activity in the oil industry picks up, fires and explosions in oil fields become more common, especially in Oklahoma and Texas. Oil fires are extremely dangerous due to the risk of subsequent explosions.

Furthermore, rural fire departments may not have enough water or foam to fight oil field fires — or firefighters may be busy fighting other fires nearby. With limited resources, they must focus on saving lives.

“If there’s no immediate property involved and no injuries on-site, then a lot of times, we’ll stand back and let it burn and control the area so it doesn’t spread. Because it is not worth risking personnel to save a little bit of property.”

These problems were highlighted after an explosion at Devon Energy Corp.’s Safari 1 wastewater disposal well last week.

Volunteer firefighters were working on a grass fire at the time. By the time they arrived, the fire was mostly contained. His volunteers helped out and the department supplied foam, water and equipment.

In Oklahoma, some are concerned about a proposed commercial wastewater disposal well in Bridge Creek that could take up to 19,500 barrels a day. An explosion would require every firefighter in the area.

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