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Turning up the heat at Phillips 66 Fire School

Whitney Phillips, a lab technician at Borger Refinery, discovered a hidden vocation at Phillips 66 — putting out fires.

“It’s a passion I never knew I had,” said Phillips, who took on the role of battalion chief in the company’s most recent hands-on emergency response training known as Fire School in College Station, Texas.

The exercise — where actual fires are put out in a live, controlled environment — is a unique experience, said Phillips, who got hooked on emergency response shortly after she was hired at Borger and went through training as part of an initial response team.

“It’s just fascinating being able to put out a fire, watching how it works and studying it,” she said.

Phillips 66 Corporate Emergency Response conducts Fire School twice a year to train new emergency response members and to refresh or advance the skills of experienced ones.

Special awards are given to participants who demonstrate dedication to continuous improvement, a positive attitude, great leadership and represent the Phillips 66 values of safety, honor and commitment.

Phillips received the Firefighter II Outstanding Student Award. She was the first woman to receive the accolade and was affectionately labeled the “den mother” of her group.

Other award winners at the Fall Fire School included:

  • Kristopher Luera, Chevron Phillips Chemical — Firefighter I Outstanding Student Award
  • Brian Scott, Bayway Refinery — Firefighter III Outstanding Student Award
  • Brian Olsen, Crisis Management and Emergency Response, Bartlesville, Oklahoma — Incident Command Systems Outstanding Student Award

Longtime Phillips 66 emergency responders conduct the training at Texas A&M Engineering Extension Service’s facility. In addition to Phillips 66 employees, about five percent of Fire School students are from local fire departments that have mutual aid agreements with the company.

Senior Emergency Response Consultant Brandon Davis, who runs the Fire School program, said the students at the Fall Fire School impressed with “cool heads” during various situations such as simulated tank car and rail car fires.

“We train them for a worst-case scenario,” Davis said. “It’s a job you have to treat seriously.”

Phillips, who has attended two Fire School courses, said she is hoping to attend more and is grateful the company offers hands-on, specialized emergency response courses. “The more I train, the better I understand my refinery and the safer I make it for everyone,” she said.