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Thread: Barge fires

  1. #1
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    Default Barge fires

    I work for a towboat company here in Memphis and we recently had an interesting situation.
    A barge was being pushed past Memphis but had to be dropped since its load,coarsely chipped pine mulch,had caught fire from the decomposition process.
    The barge in question is a standard rake which means it's 195' long by 35' wide with a raked bow for streamlining.It also had 8 fiberglass covers stacked on both ends for use at another time.For comparison,the cargo capacity is 1,500 tons,equal to 60 18 wheelers,and 15 railroad cars.
    The crew of the towboat taking it past Memphis had doused the spots where smoke was issuing from the load and thought they'd put it out only to see smoke start up again,which prompted the decision to drop it here and deal with it once and for all.
    When it got to our terminal,we tied it off so the load and the barge's owners reps could take a look before we did anything.In the morning,we had a track hoe and several dump trailers standing by to off load the cargo.
    When the operator uncovered a hot spot,he'd scoop up a bucketful of water and dump it onto the spot,then stir it around a little to make sure he'd gotten it all.
    We started at 0630 that morning and finished about 1640.Of a total 1,000 tons on board,the loss was estimated to be between 500 and 1,000 pounds of mulch.Given that barges are usually loaded to 1,500 TONS,that was nothing.
    Not all barge fires are that easy.Sometimes,the best option is to flood the cargo box but more often than not,it's best to offload undamaged product and deal with any fire that is located in the process.Liquid cargo fires are much much different,obviously.
    Before anyone says "You shoulda....",my company has two tanker trucks used mostly for dousing the roads on the property to keep down the dust and one of these has a water monitor that I am told has 2,000 gpm capacity.I have not seen it in use like that for myself so I can neither confirm nor deny that statement.
    The load representative told me that he'd seen plenty of barge fires that could have turned out differently if the FD responding didn't have a surround and drown mentality.
    This isn't meant to tell everyone how the job HAS to be done.It's just to show an option that was used successfully to prevent further loss of cargo and maybe even a barge.
    Last edited by doughesson; 09-07-2007 at 02:12 PM.


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    Forum Member KEEPBACK200FEET's Avatar
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    Definitely sounds like an interesting situation.
    Just know, I chose my own fate. I drove by the fork in the road and went straight.

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    MembersZone Subscriber SWLAFireDawg's Avatar
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    Why wouldn't a foam application be useful for these occurences?

  4. #4
    Forum Member KnightnPBIArmor's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by doughesson View Post
    I work for a towboat company here in Memphis and we recently had an interesting situation.
    A barge was being pushed past Memphis but had to be dropped since its load,coarsely chipped pine mulch,had caught fire from the decomposition process.
    The barge in question is a standard rake which means it's 195' long by 35' wide with a raked bow for streamlining.It also had 8 fiberglass covers stacked on both ends for use at another time.For comparison,the cargo capacity is 1,500 tons,equal to 60 18 wheelers,and 15 railroad cars.
    The crew of the towboat taking it past Memphis had doused the spots where smoke was issuing from the load and thought they'd put it out only to see smoke start up again,which prompted the decision to drop it here and deal with it once and for all.
    When it got to our terminal,we tied it off so the load and the barge's owners reps could take a look before we did anything.In the morning,we had a track hoe and several dump trailers standing by to off load the cargo.
    When the operator uncovered a hot spot,he'd scoop up a bucketful of water and dump it onto the spot,then stir it around a little to make sure he'd gotten it all.
    We started at 0630 that morning and finished about 1640.Of a total 1,000 tons on board,the loss was estimated to be between 500 and 1,000 pounds of mulch.Given that barges are usually loaded to 1,500 TONS,that was nothing.
    Not all barge fires are that easy.Sometimes,the best option is to flood the cargo box but more often than not,it's best to offload undamaged product and deal with any fire that is located in the process.Liquid cargo fires are much much different,obviously.
    Before anyone says "You shoulda....",my company has two tanker trucks used mostly for dousing the roads on the property to keep down the dust and one of these has a water monitor that I am told has 2,000 gpm capacity.I have not seen it in use like that for myself so I can neither confirm nor deny that statement.
    The load representative told me that he'd seen plenty of barge fires that could have turned out differently if the FD responding didn't have a surround and drown mentality.
    This isn't meant to tell everyone how the job HAS to be done.It's just to show an optio that was used successfully to prevent further loss of cargo and maybe even a barge.
    We have a mulch plant here locally and the way they handled this sounds pretty much how a hot pile at the plant is handled here; dig until you find the hot area, wet it, and preserve as much product as possible. And I agree with SWLA: adding a bit of AFFF would help with penetration of the material.

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    55 Years & Still Rolling hwoods's Avatar
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    Mulch Fires are not anything new here either. We don't have Barges to worry about, but piled mulch on Construction Jobs gets us a few calls each year. Our Fires usually result from Spontaneous Heating as the mulch undergoes the normal decompostion process. We acquire the services of a Dozer, Backhoe or whatever, and spread the mulch out and use a decent amount of water to ensure that the Fire is out. Every so often I have to intervene when a rookie officer wants to use Foam, which we've found to be less than cost effective.
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    Forum Member KnightnPBIArmor's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by hwoods View Post
    Every so often I have to intervene when a rookie officer wants to use Foam, which we've found to be less than cost effective.
    Back in the spring during the big wildland burn here in SE Georgia we were grabbing the big gallon jugs of dishwashing liquid from the Dollar Store and dumping it in the tanks on the brush trucks when we had to do a bunch of overhauling in smoldering peat and duff...cheaper than foam but just as effective in this situation.

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    It was handled by "working men" with common sense -- I know of a few places that it would have been handled by an IC in an orange vest screaming " NIMS -- I Mean two in two out --- uh --- ten and eighteens -- I mean -- get that machinery out of here --im in charge."
    Working men can be your best asset sometimes --- so many times I have seen maintaince men ignored on an industrial accident -- tow truck driver ignored on a heavy rescue -- etc. Listen and work WITH those guys -- sure helps you get the big picture.

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    That's pretty much what the load owner's rep said.He'd seen barges and boats sunk by fire departments that just saw an opportunity to see how fast that new pumper could REALLY throw water.
    Anyway,I don't think the boat's crew knew about foam or the old stand by of dishwashing soap.My old department also used that in the brush rigs and Indian tanks on wildland fires.
    One fact I'd forgotten about the barge is that it's a hopper type barge.The cargo is just dumped in and lifted out with a track hoe or bucket crane.
    As yokel said,don't discount the folks that work in an area just because they called 911 and turned the mess over to you.They have knowledge about what dangers exist and what's been changed since your last walk through inspection(you HAVE done a pre-incident walk through,haven't you?).

    Quote Originally Posted by slackjawedyokel View Post
    It was handled by "working men" with common sense -- I know of a few places that it would have been handled by an IC in an orange vest screaming " NIMS -- I Mean two in two out --- uh --- ten and eighteens -- I mean -- get that machinery out of here --im in charge."
    Working men can be your best asset sometimes --- so many times I have seen maintaince men ignored on an industrial accident -- tow truck driver ignored on a heavy rescue -- etc. Listen and work WITH those guys -- sure helps you get the big picture.
    Last edited by doughesson; 09-07-2007 at 02:15 PM.

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    Like I said,we started at 0630.By 0700,it was just boring.I just stood by on the boat with the trash pump rigged for firefighting after I'd started it to see that it would run.

    Quote Originally Posted by KEEPBACK200FEET View Post
    Definitely sounds like an interesting situation.

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