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The Smokey Truck

The oil-well control technology created by the Safety Boss Inc. of Calgary is the result of world-renowned innovation that is deeply engrained in Alberta’s oilpatch.

Founded in Calgary in 1956, the company gained international acclaim during the 1991 Gulf War when, during Iraq’s retreat from Kuwait, they blew up 950 oil wells, of which 732 turned into raging infernos. Firefighters moved in quickly, but while early estimates indicated it would take years to extinguish the fires, it took just nine months. Of the 600 oil wells capped, 180 were by Safety Boss. Despite being a small company compared to its American counterparts, this was the highest number of wells capped by any company operating in the Gulf region. As Mike Miller, CEO, said to his employees at the time, it was the "Stanley Cup" of oil well firefighting.

One important factor in their success was the Smokey fire truck. The Smokey truck was developed after the company found their existing trucks were inadequate during a blowout years before at Lodgepole, around 110 kilometres southwest of Edmonton. The sour-gas blowout burned 400 acres of forest and wasn’t capped for over two months. Development on the new Smokey series started in 1983.

The new Smokey series featured a number of advantages. They were the first oilfield trucks capable of shooting sustained, high capacity streams of water or foam. A new multi-tank suction manifold system, high volume discharge hose layouts and water cannons were much more efficient than systems other companies were using. The superiority of the Smokey truck was reflected in its cost—$500,000, more than triple what other trucks cost.

Safety Boss can fully deploy its system within an hour of arriving at a fire. Other companies, often using explosives to put out fires, could take up to a day to set up.

Endurance was another important factor. For this, Safety Boss relied on equipment supplied by trusted truck and pump companies. The equipment proved incredibly reliable. In Kuwait, three Smokey units pumped out 40 million gallons of water without breaking down.

While Safety Boss has designed the systems on the Smokey units, they have been built by Superior Emergency Vehicles, in Red Deer. The two companies have collaborated to make the best possible vehicles for this kind of work, and have recently come out with the Smokey VII and VIII models.

Click here for more information on this innovative Alberta technology.

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