When those alarm bells start ringing, Steve Panger and his colleagues average a three-minute response time.
That’s not easy for any fire department—and even less so in a port city like Superior, Wisconsin.
“We run about 3,800 calls a year. A large portion of those are medical calls and car accidents,” says Panger, chief of the Superior Fire Department, whose 42 firefighters work out of three stations across a large 45-square-mile coverage area.
“We represent the region’s hazardous materials team. Since we’re on the lakeshore, we also have full rescue services—urban search and rescue, high-angle, low-angle, water, ice,” says Panger.
“And on top of all that, we have a heavy industrial base in this town. We’re at the head of Lake Superior. That means multiple port industries,” he adds. “Most municipalities don’t have a situation like that. Frankly, it’s what makes life interesting for our firefighters.”
At the same time, Superior FD can’t do it all alone. That’s why a group of large-scale businesses in Superior, including Enbridge, are busy assembling a mutual aid group for the industrial core—a superior safety alliance, if you will, for a Superior setting.
The alliance began several years ago, when Enbridge and Superior FD began building what is now a fully functional public-private partnership for Enbridge’s Superior Terminal, where 20 percent of daily U.S. crude oil imports pass through our facility.
Over the past five years, we’ve purchased about $500,000 worth of equipment that’s shared with, and maintained by, Superior FD—whose firefighters regularly train on the equipment for potential deployment and operation. This cache includes:
Enbridge Safe Community donations have also been used by Superior FD to purchase a powerful firefighting nozzle, which has been used for non-industrial calls. Through Enbridge’s partnership with Rosemont, MN-based Flint Hills Refinery, firefighters from Superior FD have also taken part in specialized training in Texas for industrial firefighting.
“In 2016, we also had off-duty firefighters from Superior FD come train our Superior Terminal operations staff on 18 separate days,” says Tom Peterson, Enbridge’s Superior Terminal supervisor. “It was hands-on training for our safety equipment—logistics and operation.”
Through these efforts, Peterson and Panger have worked with Calumet Superior Refining to launch the Superior Industrial Response Group (SIRG)—a working mutual aid agreement that trains and focuses on responding to petroleum-based industrial emergencies.
In the future, they’re focused on bringing more partners into the fold—Superior-based industries such as Burlington Northern, Canadian National and Amsoil—who can benefit from the group’s considerable resources.
“I’m proud of the way we’ve been able to work together with Enbridge, and create such an important partnership,” says Panger. “We’re pretty excited about it.”
(TOP PHOTO: Members of Superior Fire Department train on Enbridge storage tanks at Enbridge's Superior Terminal in northern Wisconsin.)