Fire Dept. Saves Money & Lives Brewing Up Own Biodiesel

John Davis

rioricofdA southern Arizona fire district is saving lives and money by brewing up its own biodiesel to run in its trucks. This article from the Nogales (AZ) International says the Rio Rico Fire District has been making its own biodiesel from waste cooking oil since 2008 and figures what was made kept thousands of dollars in places better spent, such as saving lives.

Since 2008, [firefighter Mark] Gerbert and others at RRFD’s Station No. 1 have been cooking up thousands of gallons of biodiesel in a surprisingly sophisticated lab funded by a $90,000 grant from the Environmental Protection Agency. The primary purpose of that grant was to reduce food oil waste and cut down on emissions, but the financial benefits of the project have also been significant. According to administrative manager Marcela Ceballos, the fire district has saved nearly $40,000 in fuel costs in the last three fiscal years alone.

“Like milk, diesel keeps going up,” [firefighter Frank] Granados said.

Gerbert said that most of the district’s engines can run on the B50 blend they make, which is a half-biodiesel, half-petroleum diesel blend.

When Herbert started with the project, he was short on know-how.

“I didn’t know a frickin’ thing about this when I got started,” he said.

Now, six years later, he expertly cooks waste oil into clean biodiesel with ease and explains each step of the process with the skill of a high school chemistry teacher.

The firefighters do warn people not to try this at home.

Area restaurants and homeowners wanting to help out are encouraged to contact the Rio Rico Fire District to arrange to donate their waste grease.