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Action-movie explosions can happen on the road — for real

Posted at 4:30 AM, Nov 29, 2017
and last updated 2017-11-29 17:17:25-05

COVINGTON, Ky. -- We've all seen it in action movies and video games: A bullet hits a fuel tank (or a car or a barrel marked with an exclamation point) and the whole thing goes up in flames.

Real life is generally less flammable than Call of Duty, but the rise of environmentally friendly compressed natural gas, which you might find in large and medium-sized trucks, does present a genuine risk of explosions.

Spotting vehicles that use compressed natural gas -- and therefore might explode after they catch fire -- can be a challenge for firefighters responding to traffic emergencies because these vehicles aren't required to be marked.

"Natural gas, although it's been used for motor vehicles for over 30 years, has predominately been used in the West Coast," Covington Fire Capt. Kaleb Miller said. "It's only been around the East Coast maybe for the last 7-8 years. It's a new product in our area of risk management in the fire service."

And because it's new, there aren't many resources for fire departments to learn what to look out for and what to do in case they do encounter a compressed natural gas vehicle in an emergency situation.

That's where Larry Stone comes in.

Stone, who works for fire victim advocacy organization 1-800-Boardup, works to train firefighters like Miller to respond safely to compressed natural gas fires.

"I'm doing this training from Troy, Ohio, all the way down to Northern Kentucky," he said. "In the last three months, I've literally trained over 300 firefighters."

It's a service for which Miller is grateful.

"For me, being a captain, I'm going to have to be out there directing my crew and making sure I know what's going on," he said. "I need to be able to identify these things to adequately put out the fire and keep everyone safe."