Firefighters get up close to a propane fire during a training session on Wednesday at Rio Rico Fire District Station 2.

The Rio Rico Fire District hosted three days of propane fire training at its Station 2 this week, to the benefit of firefighters in Santa Cruz County as well as their colleagues from Pima County and Sonora, Mexico.

Frank Granados, a senior advisor at RRFD, said the annual training is especially relevant in the local area, where there’s limited natural gas infrastructure.

“If you drive around and look at everybody’s yards, they have propane tanks. If you look at the propane tanks going into Mexico, propane. If you look at what’s coming down I-19 southbound, propane,” he said. “So propane travels our freeways and our railways and it’s used like water would be at every house – the majority of the homes out here are running off propane.”

But in addition to its utility, propane poses risks as well.

“A little five-gallon jug of propane can kill you,” Granados said. “To us, it’s going to cook our hot dogs, it’s going to make our hamburgers, it’s fine. It’s not if it’s handled improperly.”

During the training, held Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, firefighters were given classroom sessions followed by applied field lessons, which included studying a propane truck to learn how its shutoffs work and attacking a live propane fire.

“They get the class, they get the physics of it, and then they get the firefighting part of it,” Granados said. He noted that the “night burns,” in which firefighters honed their skills after dark, were especially popular.

The training was offered by the Arizona Propane Association and AmeriGas, and attracted public safety participants outside of the firefighting realm. Several Border Patrol agents took part, Granados said, adding that it’s useful knowledge for them as potential first responders to a propane-related incident.

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