Mutual aid helps Farmington Hills firefighters battle oil blaze

Farmington Hills Fire Department is crediting mutual aid support from Detroit Metro Airport firefighters with providing critical assistance with a July 17 oil fire.

Farmington Hills Fire Department Mutual Aid
Detroit Metro Airport Fire Department assisted Farmington Hills firefighters with a July 17 oil fire. (City of Farmington Hills)

Shortly after 4 p.m. Specialty Steel, 31610 W. 8 Mile Rd., reported close to 500 gallons of oil was burning in a large steel treating furnace. According to a city press release, more than 20 firefighters from all five Farmington Hills fire stations responded. Because it’s dangerous to use water on an oil fire, they turned to dry chemical fire extinguishers, which worked well but quickly ran out.

Command staff contacted the Detroit Metro Airport Fire Department for an Aircraft Rescue Fire Truck, which carries several thousand gallons of water and firefighting foam. Most importantly, it also carries 500 pounds of Purple-K, a dry chemical that is highly effective in fighting oil fires.

Metro Airport Firetruck
The Aircraft Rescue Fire Truck (City of Farmington Hills)

Shortly after Truck #7 of the Metro Airport firefighting fleet arrived, a team of firefighters from both departments applied Purple-K into the oil vat and extinguished the fire by 6 p.m., with no injuries to employees or firefighters.

Damage was contained to a small portion of the facility. An investigation determined that a power outage contributed to the furnace malfunctioning.

“This was an excellent example of the importance of mutual aid, where Fire Departments help each other across jurisdictional boundaries,” said Farmington Hills Fire Chief Jon Unruh. “The emergency exceeded our local resources, so we were extremely grateful for the assistance from our mutual aid partners at the Metro Airport Fire Department with their specialty firefighting equipment.”

Having different types of specialty equipment isn’t financially feasible for each community, Unruh said. Shared resources from mutual aid partners have been used in incidents including hazardous materials spills, trench rescues, and structural collapse scenes. The department belongs to the Western Wayne Fire Department Association, and OAKWAY and West Oakland Mutual Aid, both in Oakland County.

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