Officials from Citgo and the Braintree Fire Department agree that both the town and the Quincy Avenue fuel terminal should be better prepared in case of an ethanol fire, an acknowledgment that has come out of the company's recent request to update its flammable storage license.
They also agree that a portion of the emergency response equipment at the facility should be replaced, and that both parties should more effectively collaborate on training. However, as evidenced during a Board of License Commissioners meeting on Tuesday afternoon, a gap remains between Fire Chief Kevin Murphy and Citgo Terminal Manager Allen Morris when it comes to the extent of training, and who should cover the cost.
"If we had a fire down there right now, I would have no idea what to do, to tell you the truth," Murphy said on Tuesday. "It's not something that we can hide anymore, [training and planning is] something we should do as soon as possible."
Citgo filed a request to modify its storage license last November to reflect its need to store both petroleum and non-petroleum based fuels, though the company has stored ethanol in Braintree since 2006.
The request was prompted, Citgo attorney Michael A. Leon said, by the company's plans to construct an additional tank for bio-diesel. That fuel is blended with home heating oil and diesel fuels and must be kept at higher temperatures than the current tanks allow. It also poses a lower fire hazard than normal diesel fuel, according to Citgo.
Three license board members voted on Tuesday to continue Citgo's store license request until April 24. Police Chief Paul Frazier and Building Inspector Russell Forsberg were absent. The extra time will allow the fire department and Citgo to test new equipment being delivered next month and create a training schedule.
Citgo has ordered nearly $17,000 worth of hose and a pump that can produce different proportions of alcohol-resistant foam of the kind that can battle an ethanol blaze. Petroleum fire, for instance, requires a 3 percent foam mix, while ethanol needs 6 percent. The current equipment can only produce foam at the 3 percent mix, Murphy said.
The fire chief said his largest concerns were an outdated firefighting plan for the facility and a lack of comprehensive training for his officers. Citgo held a "table-top" training at the Sheraton in 2007 for various federal, state and local officials, and last fall held walkthroughs for firefighters on site, but has not consistently worked with the department on training for potential catastrophes.
Braintree does not have the just under $5,000 Murphy said it would cost for a comprehensive training scenario in its budget, though, and Leon said Citgo is against paying for it because it is a private company under no obligation to do so. Leon said Citgo already pays $11,000 annually for its storage license and thousands more in various taxes to the town and state.
In other business on Tuesday, the board unanimously approved a food license for the Yogurt Bar, scheduled to open in May at 915 Washington St. It is Gregory McDonald and his fellow owners' second location. They also operate a Yogurt Bar at The Common Market Restaurants in Quincy.