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Prepping for Hydrogen: SoCal Firefighters Go To H2 Safety School

One of the largest hydrogen safety workshops yet held was conducted for Southern California firefighters yesterday at the Torrance Cultural Arts Center in Torrance, California.

About 150 firefighters, fire marshals, fleet managers, city officials, and other stakeholders attended the all-day event, which was presented by the California Fuel Cell Partnership (CaFCP) in conjunction with the Los Angeles Area Fire Marshals’ Association.

California State Fire Marshal Ruben Grijalva delivered the keynote address, and noted that hydrogen is already used extensively in the semiconductor industry, which has given some departments their first taste of hydrogen-related incidents.

“I’d much rather go to a hydrogen fire than a propane fire,” Grijalva remarked, while also emphasizing the need to develop fire safety codes that are flexible and adaptable as the hydrogen economy matures. “If things go wrong,” he noted, “we will lose the public trust.”

Representatives from Honda, General Motors, Nissan, and Toyota were on hand to answer questions about hydrogen fuel cell vehicle safety systems, participate in panel discussions, host a fuel cell vehicle Ride and Drive, and conduct a walkaround inspection of fuel cell vehicles for area firefighters.

Spokesmen for Shell Hydrogen, Praxair, and Air Products described safety systems for existing and planned hydrogen fueling stations in California, and Brad Smith of Shell Hydrogen announced that Shell would convert an existing Shell gas station, located in West Los Angeles, into a hydrogen refueling station to be operated using renewable energy resources.

Smith said that the station will be converted without government co-funding, and that Shell Hydrogen hopes to be dispensing hydrogen at the station by the end of 2006.

The conference concluded with a training session presented by Adam Gromis of the CaFCP. Gromis provided firefighters with emergency response training covering hydrogen fuel cell vehicles, pressurized hydrogen fuel leaks and fires, and successful firefighting strategies.

—Jack Rosebro


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