Geoff's specialist skills protecting Corringham
Station Officer Geoff Wheal is one of just a handful of officers in Essex specially trained to deal with huge petrochemical incidents and the only on-call firefighter with such specialist knowledge.
With eight major petrochemical sites straddling the Thames estuary, it is vital that Geoff, from Corringham Fire Station, has the knowledge and skills to deal with these kinds of incidents.
Corringham is near to eight locations carrying dangerous and flammable substances within the County.
These facilities – known as Control of Major Accident Hazards sites - include the Shell Oil Terminal, Calor Gas and Thames Oil Port, all in Coryton, Esso Fuels Limited, in Purfleet, the NuStar terminal, in Grays, and the OIKOS storage facility, in Canvey.
Geoff was selected to become a petrochemical officer in 2001 and completed his intensive training in Texas, USA.
The appointment came less than four years after he was promoted to Station Officer at Corringham Fire Station.
Geoff, who followed in his father’s footsteps by joining ECFRS as an on-call firefighter in 1987, is now able to put his knowledge and training into place quickly and effectively at high risk sites.
In 2005, he was part of a team from the Service that helped tackle the Buncefield oil depot fire, in Hertfordshire.
Geoff, who has worked at Stansted Airport’s fire service for 25 years, was also the first petrochemical officer at the Petroplus oil refinery fire, in Coryton, on October 31, 2007, where he ordered a major foam attack to help tackle the blaze.
The father-of-two regularly passes on his petrochemical skills and training to other firefighters.
Just last week, 10 firefighters used the Shell Oil Terminal to simulate different types of fuel fires and how to extinguish them using various foam application techniques and equipment.
Geoff said: “I never envisioned that after joining as on-call firefighter that I would become a specialist petrochemical officer for the Service.
“I’m now one of just seven officers who know how to best tackle a fire involving petrochemicals. The training I have been given has been fantastic and helps make our communities safer places to live and work.
“It is a great an example of the skills and knowledge you can gain as an on-call firefighter at ECFRS."
Essex County Fire and Rescue Service is currently recruiting on-call firefighters at many of its stations across the county.
If you are interested in becoming an on-call firefighter and would like to know more about how it might work for you, then call 01376 576121 or visit www.essex-fire.gov.uk/Recruitment/On-Call_Firefighters/.