SISSONVILLE, W.Va. — The Sissonville Volunteer Fire Department is going the extra mile to make sure Kanawha County is prepared in the event of another natural gas pipeline explosion.

The department held a four hour natural gas emergencies class Monday night at their fire station to not only train their members, but also other local agencies.

Sissonville VFD Instructor Tom Miller said even though several of their firefighters had gotten the training already, they thought it would be a good idea after the December 11 explosion in Sissonville to hold the class.

“We had a lot of mutual aid departments that responded with us did not have that training so we wanted to offer this training to them and they could come and train with us so that should we have another event, there would be a more cohesive response,” he said.

Last year’s natural gas pipeline explosion set ablaze several homes, sent flames shooting nearly 100 feet into the air on both sides of Interstate 77, and melted asphalt and guardrails on the highway. Remarkably no one was killed or seriously injured.

Miller said his department had previous training for that type of event and they responded well because of it, but adds that there is always room to grow.

“You’ve got to constantly sharpen the saw. Even if our guys have had the training, it’s refresher training for them,” he said. “I’ve had the training a bunch, I’m sitting in the class. You never know too much.”

The four hour training class covered just about everything surrounding natural gas pipelines and involved tabletop scenarios and drills, among other things. Miller said it was all inclusive.

“It’s talking about the hazards so that we understand the operations of a well head, so that we understand the operations of a pipeline, so that we understand the operations of a compressor station,” he said. “We have to know the nuances of the different types of incidents that we can respond to. That’s critical.”

Fire departments from all over the Kanawha County took part in the class as well as people from the Yeager Airport Authority. Dennis Tomcik, who works for the Ohio Emergency Management, even took the four hour drive to attend.

“These fellows were good enough to advertise this class and I wanted to come down and see about the class they were giving to see what I could take back for Ohio,” he said.

Just halfway through the class, Tomcik was impressed by what he saw.

“I’ve sat through several of these types of courses and this is the best one I’ve seen,” he said. “These guys really have a well put together program.”

Tomcik planned on taking the program and using it to create an all responder class for all emergency agencies back in Ohio.

Monday’s training class was only the beginning for the Sissonville VFD. The department plans to hold the class and other training classes on a annual basis for the county and surrounding areas.

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