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Red One Provides Effective Response for Biomass Gas Incidents

Wood chip

Recently an employee of Devon & Somerset Fire & Rescue Service recognised a business opportunity that has resulted in a new client for Red One Limited. The opportunity arose after Ashley Raddon, a fire officer from Crownhill Station, Plymouth attended a false alarm call at a mental health centre for teenagers in Plymouth.

The incident, which occurred in the early hours of the morning, was attended by three appliances from Crownhill. The fire alarms had been falsely triggered by a Carbon Monoxide (CO) release from the wood chip biomass stored on the site to fuel the buildings boiler. Following the incident, Ashley spoke to the General Manager of the facility and made a suggestion that Red One might be able to help prevent the problem from happening again.

Chris Thain, Director of Red One Limited visited the site with Mark Shaddick from our Academy Access and Rescue School and together they carried out an evaluation of the problem.

Chris explained: “Biomass boilers are growing in popularity as they are efficient, durable, clean and easy to use. They can provide an environmentally friendlier and cheaper alternative to oil and gas fuelled systems. The problem here appeared to be that the biomass was stored in an underground bunker (a confined space) which had been fitted with gas detectors. These detectors had been linked to the facility’s fire alarm system.

Chris went on to explain: “When biomass gets wet, it has the potential to release Carbon Monoxide (CO) gas. In order to vent the confined space, the wood chip must be dug out from the bunker – which is about 15 feet underground – it is then replaced with clean, dry woodchip.

“Our first suggestion was to disconnect the gas alarm from the fire alarm system, so that gas detection became a standalone system. The facility then required a working procedure for the confined space, to deal with any future gas incidents and that they could present to the NHS. After a full evaluation, a working methodology was proposed by Red One, which was accepted by the client. We now have the pleasure of working with the facility on a contracted ‘stand-by’ response basis.

“In the future, if the CO alarm sounds, no one from the facility would be allowed access into the confined space of the bunker. As the space can only be accessed by key, there is no immediate danger to anyone. The facility will then call Red One and within 24 hours we provide a specially trained access and rescue team to open and safely vent the biomass bunker.

“While digging out the wet wood chip, there is also the potential for the release of additional CO in to the confined space, hence the reason for the ‘stand by’ team to monitor the gas levels during the removal. If we find any subsequent build-up of CO gas, we would stop any work, vent the space again and provide a ‘stand by’ rescue capability until the space is once again safe to work within.”

Red One also now provides an annual inspection and familiarisation visit to the facility. The solution saves the Fire & Rescue Service money as well as generating commercial income for Red One, an elegant outcome for all concerned.

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