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Firefighters know job is dangerous
State fire instructor Phil Duncan tells McMinnville firefighters what to do in case of a propane fire. Such a fire killed his father.

For state fire instructor Phil Duncan, firefighting isn’t just a job -- it’s personal.
“I see the picture every day of a man with a little boy sitting in his lap that reminds me of how dangerous these things can be,” Duncan told McMinnville firefighters during training on how to fight a blaze involving a propane tank. “They will kill you. I ought to know. The man in that picture was my father and the little boy in his lap was me.”
Duncan shared the death of his father who was killed in a tank explosion to stress how dangerous fighting a propane fire can be. Firemen who had taken his course before were surprised to hear about Duncan’s father since it was not something he had shared before.
“These things will kill you dead … forever,” Duncan told the firemen. “My father never came home. And he never will.”
Duncan instructed local firemen of the proper way to attack a pressurized vessel fire in a controlled environment. The demonstration was Thursday behind the Blue Building.
He stressed the need for teamwork and proper technique in approaching a propane tank on fire, noting they are one of the most dangerous fires to face.
Duncan also warned that pressurized vessels can explode in an instant.
“If you’re close enough to be spraying water on the tank when it goes, you’re dead,” said Duncan, noting that sometimes discretion is the better part of valor if the propane tank is not threatening lives.
McMinnville Fire Capt. Phil Mitchell said the training Duncan provides helps to keep firefighters sharp.
“This is part of the training we do constantly,” Mitchell said. “We average 22 to 30 hours a month of training.”
Mitchell said it is important to hone firefighting skills so they are ready when an emergency arises.
“It’s something we continually have to keep an eye on,” Mitchell said. “We have to make sure we’re sharp and stay on our A-game. We don’t want to slack off. We don’t want to fall behind.”