Firefighting Advice Earns Fire Protection Manager Gratitude from the State Dept.

  • Ed Douberly, Jefferson Lab’s Fire Protection and Access Control manager

Ed Douberly, Jefferson Lab’s Fire Protection and Access Control manager, recently responded to a request from the U.S. State Department – seeking advice to help in safely extinguishing a sulfur fire in Iraq. Douberly’s recommendations earned him a letter of gratitude from the State Department.

Ed Douberly, Jefferson Lab’s Fire Protection and Access Control manager, has been in the Fire Services profession since high school – starting out as a volunteer firefighter during his junior and senior years in school.

He started college, but then decided to enter the military, where he served as a medic in the U.S. Navy for four years. Upon his discharge, Douberly knew he wanted a career in Fire Services. So, he went back to college and completed an associate’s degree in the Fire Science program at Reynolds Community College in Richmond, Va., and then earned his ABET-accredited bachelor’s degree in Fire Protection Engineering from the University of Maryland’s Clark School of Engineering.

Douberly went to work for Virginia Power – for 16 years – advancing from associate engineer to director of Fire Protection, Safety and Environmental Health.

From there he worked for various consulting firms and as assistant professor of Fire Science in the Virginia Community College System. Prior to joining Jefferson Lab, he was employed by the Mid-Atlantic Naval Facilities Engineering Command (NAVFAC-MidLant) as a project engineering manager.

“I didn’t know anything about Jefferson Lab until I attended the 2014 open house with my son, Christopher. He is excited by all things nuclear physics,” Douberly recalled. “So we drove down from Richmond. We had a great time and I found myself thinking, ‘This would be cool place to work.’

“When this position was posted, I applied for it and was invited in to be interviewed,” he continued. “When I got the job, I called my son and said, “You’ll never believe where I’m going to work! He said ‘No way!’ He was as excited as I was.”

Douberly runs the Department of Energy’s Fire Protection program at the lab as well as the Security Access Control systems for all lab buildings. While preventing fires is always the primary focus of Fire Protection programs, knowledge and experience in safely and efficiently controlling and extinguishing fires is also critical. Douberly’s willingness to share that knowledge recently earned him a letter of gratitude from the U.S. Department of State.

In October, as U.S. and Coalition forces advanced to retake Mosul from ISIL, ISIL set fire to a sulfur factory in Mishraq, Iraq, and laced the fire with oil. Sulfur fires are very dangerous and difficult to control, and the oil produced billowing clouds of heavy black smoke, which made the situation even more hazardous. The fire was hindering the military’s efforts to retake the area. In late October, the U.S. State Department put out a request for help through the DOE Fire Protection community.

Doublerly drew upon his years of experience and knowledge with Virginia Power and as a consultant to provide very specific advice on safely combating the fire and on the types of materials and products that could be effective in extinguishing the blaze.

“Characteristics of sulfur dust are very much like sub-bituminous coal dust in that it ignites very easily and is very explosive. Aspects of a sulfur fire, while not the same, are similar to a coal fire,” Douberly explained.

The information gathered by the State Department – from Douberly and others – was passed on to the Department of Defense. The fire has been extinguished. While Douberly doesn’t know the specifics, he is glad that he was in a position to help out. “This was a good example of cross-agency cooperation,” he said.

In recognition of his advice, on Nov. 8, Douberly received a letter from Phillip Dolliff, director of the State Department’s Office of Cooperative Threat Reduction. In part, the letter reads: “On behalf of the U.S. Department of State, I want to express my sincere gratitude for your assistance in combating the sulfur fire in Mishraq… Your quick response to our urgent request for help directly impacted US and Coalition operations. ... We could not have accomplished this task without you, and we deeply appreciate your partnership and support.”


Jefferson Science Associates, LLC, manages and operates the Thomas Jefferson National Accelerator Facility, or Jefferson Lab, for the U.S. Department of Energy's Office of Science.

DOE’s Office of Science is the single largest supporter of basic research in the physical sciences in the United States and is working to address some of the most pressing challenges of our time. For more information, visit