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  1. #1
    MembersZone Subscriber JohnVBFD's Avatar
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    Default Some basic shipboard FF info.

    If you have access to a major commercial waterway, chances are that at some point in time you will be faced with a fire related emergency on board a marine vessel. This form of firefighting is completely different and usually foreign to most civilian firefighters. Many of our learned "tricks of the trade" and methods of training that are bread and butter at the normal Single Family Dwelling fire, can potentially lead to injury and even death.

    Size Up
    Some form of size up acronym has been drilled into every officer, firefighter and recruit from day one. COAL WAS WEALTH, WALLACE WAS HOT are just two. All required and vital knowledge during a emergency incident in a building. While I have no acronym for anything shipboard, there are five vital pieces of information that is needs to be known before any other information.
    • What is the nature/class of the fire?

    Yes, this information is almost more important to know than where the fire is. This information will affect how you combat the fire no matter where it is located. It will also tell you if you can "slow" down and take that extra breath to organize, or if you have to move with lighting fast speed and assign firefighters to work immediately.
    • Where is the fire located and what forms the Box around the space?
    While to many firefighters who are used to shipboard firefighting, the class of fire will give them a general idea of where the fire is. The chances of finding a flammable liquid fire in any space outside of an engineering space or HazMat storage area are slim to none. Fire's involving metals are likely only to be found on ships that have a helicopter on board or are in a shipyard. These are clues to people who are used to these types of fire.

    To the firefighter not used to ship's, this is all Greek. Knowing how to get to the affected compartment is vital information to the officer. If possible you should ask for a sailor trained in Damage Control from that ship to remain assigned to your fire company. This will allow your company to transit through the ship without getting lost in the maze of pee-ways.

    It is also important to know what forms "The Box" around the affected space. Most ships are made of steel or aluminum. These metals transfer heat to unaffected compartments in a very rapid manner. Officers and firefighters should be aware of what is on the other side of the bulkhead. "The Box" consists of six compartments. They are the compartments that are directly forward, aft, to port, to starboard, above and below the space with the fire. The officer and IC must remain aware of what is in those compartments and to ensure fire boundaries are set in those compartments.

    • What is the installed firefighting equipment in the space and in "The Box"?

    Many compartments with a high risk of fires will have installed firefighting equipment already located within the space. Every engineering space on a ship in the US Navy will be protected by either: Halon 1301, CO2, or the replacement for Halon 1301, Water Mist.

    While it goes against the nature of many firefighters, if a space has installed firefighting equipment, slow down. Allow the ships company to activate the installed FF system if they have not already done so. If they have already activated the system, give the agent "soak" time in the space. For example, if the space is protected by Halon 1301 there is no rush to recess the space. Halon will continue to be as effective if you wait two hours or if you wait 15 minutes. If the agent did not activate or is not effective normal firefighting operations with hose lines will have to begin.

    • Is there any sensitive equipment inside the space?

    There are many systems on board ships that do not react well to firefighting agents. While it might be necessary to use these agents inside the space there are manners of there use to achieve both means. Unlike a structure with many unseen seep holes, it is possible to completely "steam" a fire out. This might be a necessary tactic inside a space containing the electrical switchboard that controls the fire pumps. Examples of sensitive equipment include but is not limited to: main reduction gears that connect engines to the ships propeller shaft, electrical switchboards, ships radar rooms, ammunition lockers, and hazardous material stowage spaces.

    • What is the status of Electrical and Mechanical Isolation of the compartment?

    It is important that the affected compartment be electrically and mechanically isolated from the rest of the ship. The biggest threat to all personnel on board will be from mixing water and any exposed electric sources. Ships can have electric switchboards, exposed wires, or a myriad of other electric currents where unsuspecting firefighters would never think to look.

    Mechanical isolation is just as vital as electrical isolation. An IC will want to ensure that all air sources, both supply and exhaust are secured. Especially if a space is protected by installed FF systems. It is also vital that all flammable liquids or health hazard liquids are not flowing through the affected compartment.

    • What size is the fire-main connections?

    A ships fire-main system is much like a standpipe. Firefighters bringing any hose on board will need to make sure that the hose is compatible with the ships fire-main. If it is not, adapters will need to be brought on board to facilitate the use of the fire-main.

    Incident Command
    Incident command will also be slightly different on board a ship. A major change for many civilian firefighters and officers is that they should not be controlling the fire attack. The highest ranking fire officer in most cases will only be in charge of his local personnel. He will also have to understand that he will have to both report to and follow the instructions of the ships commanding officer. The ships CO ultimately is responsible for the safety and survival of their ship.

    With this in mind, the first person the IC should find on their arrival is the ships Damage Control Officer (DCO) or Chief Engineer (CHENG). For some companies this person is one in the same, having also a Damage Control Assistant (DCA). This person will have intimate knowledge of that ship. They will most likely have the answer to all five of the above size up questions. He or she will know the what systems are affected and the best routes to and from the scene.

    The best place to find the CHENG or DCO will most likely be inside the ships Central Control Station (CCS) or if they have one, the ships Damage Control Central (DCC). Here an IC can find schematics in 3D fashion all compartments on board, what is located in them, and what passes through them.

    The civilian IC should also request as many crew members from the CO or CHENG as they can spare. These crewman if trained to basic shipboard damage control/firefighting can be assigned to firefighting companies to better aid transit through the ship.

    Basic Safety/Equipment
    While wearing our PPE is essential during our bread and butter fires, it is even more so during a shipboard fire. While it is possible to "leave a little skin" during a structure fire and get away with it, it is not possible on board a ship. During our structure fires we will have some manner of ventilation going to remove heat and byproducts from the main fire area. This often is not possible on board a ship. All members should continually check each other to ensure that there is no skin exposed through PPE. Any exposed skin will be painfully burned. Yes I do know this from personal experience.

    Ladders are an extreme danger to land based firefighters. Unlike many stairwells in buildings there can be no rhythm or reason to shipboard ladders. One ladder might be nearly vertical and be only 5 steps, while another may not be as steep but be 17 feet long. Another danger is vertical shafts and trunks. Escape trunks out of compartments are vertical and often travel more than one deck. It is important to sound the deck in front of you to ensure there are no open flush deck hatches leading to a vertical escape trunk.

    Officers will need to make sure that they are in continual voice or sight contact with their firefighters. Radio's have been found through experience, especially in the US Navy, to be utterly worthless during shipboard fires. Electromagnetic interference and normal "dead" spots exist throughout the ship and will interfere with radio communication. In the US Navy, paper message blanks using symbols is considered the only official and legal form of communication of damage control efforts.

    The companies should remain together as much as possible. Many damage control training groups preach to be in constant contact with your hose line. Ships are mazes with interconnecting passageways and fan rooms. Land based firefighters should ensure that they remain together unless actively participating in hose line movement. If moving through the ship, two members should be sent together at all times. If sending two members will only leave one member on the hose line, the entire line should be backed out and reported to DC Central/Incident Command.

    Likewise, many of our basic hand tools that we are used to carrying will only be marginally effective on board a ship. The greatest tool that needs to be brought on board is the Thermal Imaging Camera. This tool can be the difference on board a ship while firefighting. It will allow for a greater "visual" range of sight accountability, and more importantly be the best chance for an officer to determine the effectiveness of the firefighting efforts.

    Common hand tools can be brought on board but will not be able to used in the normal "trained" manner. The pike pole/roof hook will probably be the best tool for firefighters to carry. It will allow extended reach into the space and create a greater safety margin while sounding a deck to ensure it is intact.
    Last edited by DocVBFDE14; 02-01-2008 at 10:10 PM.
    Co 11
    Virginia Beach FD

    Amateurs practice until they get it right; professionals practice until they cannot get it wrong. Which one are you?

    'The fire went out and nobody got hurt' is a poor excuse for a fireground critique.


  2. #2
    Forum Member FWDbuff's Avatar
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    Good stuff Doc.....Question: Does NNSY open the DC School to civilian fire departments like PNSY used to?

    Some other things I thought of while reading:

    -Land based "civilian" companies should bring extra air bottles, probably as many as can be carried. If you are wearing 30 minute bottles, may take one bottle alone to reach deep-seated fires, plus another one to fight the fire, and then maybe even one to evac the area.

    -Land based companies should be proficient at knowing compartment numbering systems (the "address" of the fire)

    -Dewatering: not an immediate concern on a big ship with a small fire, but could be a problem on a smaller vessel (IE a tugboat) with a significant fire. The more water you pour in, the more you need to extract.

    -Heavy Rescue Companies (especially experienced ones, "Macguyvers on a toolbox on wheels") are your friends. You never know when you will need specialty equipment such as cutting torches, structural lumber/shoring equipment and power tools of all kinds.

    OK its getting late, lemme go to bed now and dream back to the days of my training as a federal FF at a large naval installation before it shut down If I think of any more I'll post again!
    "Loyalty Above all Else. Except Honor."

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    Shipboard firefighting is a very structured event. Sure, all of the size up considerations are valid but they are no replacement for the experienced fire parties that are usualy part of a ships crew and that ships fire doctrine. Shipboard firefighting at sea has a very different set of priorities. For the US Navy they are #1 the ship #2 the equipment and #3 personell. At sea you only have one chance to put out fire, if not you go to the closest land, 3 miles straight down. When a cmpartment fie cannot be controlled, a defensive line is taken on all six sides or boundries of the fire compartment. Some of the biggest problems are maintaing smoke boundries, lack of ventilation steel becks and bulkheads that trap and conduct heat and always having to decend through the thermal layer. God help you if the ship is dead in the water or the firemain has problems

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    Brings back memories of my time in the Navy.

    I worked in the Engineroom. When I first went in, OBA's, Steel Pots and gloves were all we got for firefighting. Cotton shirts and tucking our dungaree pants into our wool socks were our next layer of protection. We thought we were really styling when we got flash hoods.

    OBA's were chemical rebreathers. One thing I really liked about them was the canisters were small and compact. If needed I could change canisters in a contaminated atmosphere.

    I can't stress maintaining fire boundaries around the involved compartment enough. The fire will spread fast if you don't cool the bulkheads. Civilian fire behavior classes mention conduction as a method of fire spread, but don't talk about it a lot. In a shipboard environment, conduction is the primary method that fire will spread outside the original fire location.

    Ventilation - you have to shut down the shipboard ventilation systems. The fire can get inside the ducts and spread. Smoke can be moved around the ship and make a hazardous environment for everyone. Shipboard fire fighters typically worry about containing or controlling the spread of smoke throughout the ship. I had one instructor that said if there is too much smoke in the fire compartment for you to breath, it will help keep the fire smaller. You won't see a lot of PPV type attacks or vertical ventilation. Vertical ventilation requires a lot of work with cutting torches. It is used sometimes, but makes Ships captains really nervous. You are damaging the watertight compartmentalization of his ship when you do that. They would much rather you seal the compartment and wait for it to burn out.

    Dewatering - get with the Damage Control folks and figure out how you are going to get the water out of the ship. Engineering compartments have installed dewatering systems that can be operated remotely. Other compartments will need portable dewatering equipments. Portable pumps and eductors will be most common. If you sink the ship around you while trying to put out a fire, you will make everyone with you unhappy.

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    Dewatering is ALWAYS a factor in marine firefighting.If you put water in a boat,eventually it will sink.When your boss just laid out 2.5 mil for a new towboat,sinking in the course of "saving"it can cause career complications for you.
    Ventilation is usually horizontal as cutting holes in steel overheards is difficult and time consuming.
    One of the first things I learned in USN damage control is that you cannot win against a fire.All you can do is limit the damage incurred.And you always have six sides to worry about when you want to contain the fire.
    There's a website with training for marine firefighting,though to my towboater eyes,it's geared to blue water vessels http://www.marinefirefighting.com
    The River School here in Memphis offers training for towboat and tank barge firefighting. http://riverschool.com There are schools where ever there is a US Coast Guard office and the coasties can get you in contact with them if a phone book search doesn't work.

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    Quote Originally Posted by kd7fds View Post
    Brings back memories of my time in the Navy.


    OBA's were chemical rebreathers. One thing I really liked about them was the canisters were small and compact. If needed I could change canisters in a contaminated atmosphere.
    Same here.I've spoken with guys in the "new" Navy and they were surprised that we'd make entry wearing dungarees and chambray and little else.
    At Gitmo,my job on Repair V was CO2/Foam and at the time,I knew everything there was about the twinned system we used during a drill for the fleet training guys.After explaining how to light off the foam unit down to breaking the glass on the water solenoid,they told me if I knew how to use my OBA,to go ahead and do so without pulling the pin on the ignition candle.
    I pinched the hoses and breathed enough into the bags to get the chemical reaction going and set the timer to 45 minutes as trained.
    When I took that thing off on the messdecks when the timer sounded,it was a shock what my shipmates smelled like after an hour at GQ.

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    Thumbs up Shipboard Firefighting.....

    Doc,

    Once again, I find a thread started by you that brings back memories. I was a Boiler Tech 1990-99. I can remember the days of tucking in the dungarees for a non main space fire. When it came the the "Main spaces" it was FFE and that wonderful OBA. My first ship, the Simon Lake AS-33, stationed in Holyloch Scotland, is where firefighting was drilled into me as if something happened in the main space, it was the off watch engineers that were the primary attack team. It made perfect sense as most of the "crew" didn't have a clue as to what to expect "down there in the hole". My last ship, Wasp LHD-1 was a treat as I was one of the few from "the pit" who were on the inport fire party. Such memories...................... .....

    Be safe all!!

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    Memories....yeah right.
    And if anything happened while the engineering plants was lit off,the ship goes to GQ and handles it as battle damage.
    USS Mahan DDG42 was pulling into St.Thomas and all during "Sweepers",we BMs were counting the cruise liners pulling in as well and anticipating the joys of Liberty Call that night.
    As soon as my broom handle slid into the rack,the General Quarters alarm started bonging so we hauled it to our battlestations,mine at Repair Five as CO2/Foam man,sitting on the messdecks.
    The problem was a failed gasket causing JP5 to leak onto the duty boiler.We had the hose teams manned up spraying foam onto the flange and sluicing the oil into the bilges so I was pouring AFFF into the foam proportioner fast enough that the guy behind me couldn't keep up.Without looking over my shoulder,I hollered at him"If you can't keep the cans coming,get someone who can!"
    After things calmed down enough(foam blanket laid in the bilges,reflash watch set,the affected boiler secured with another boiler in the other fireroom relit and placed back on line),I looked back and saw the Command Master Chief standing behind me,so I asked if he was the replacement foam passer.He told me "No,I'm sorry I wasn't going fast enough for you.".
    Let me tell you,a lot of my Navy career was predicated on my superiors having a sense of humor.
    When we went to Gitmo for fleet refresher training after the yards,we had a ban on short sleeves in order to gain a bit more"protection from flames.


    Quote Originally Posted by rfdmn09 View Post
    Doc,
    When it came the the "Main spaces" it was FFE and that wonderful OBA. My first ship, the Simon Lake AS-33, stationed in Holyloch Scotland, is where firefighting was drilled into me as if something happened in the main space, it was the off watch engineers that were the primary attack team. It made perfect sense as most of the "crew" didn't have a clue as to what to expect "down there in the hole". My last ship, Wasp LHD-1 was a treat as I was one of the few from "the pit" who were on the inport fire party. Such memories...................... .....

    Be safe all!!

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    I did 8 years as a Hull tech, turned out that I hated welding, and loved fighting fire so here I am. The absolute best phrase I heard in that entire time was on a fire in a storeroom, full of uniforms, paper and such for the wardrooms. The non-tight door was locked and the key could not be found quickly so the Scene leader told us to "take the door", a master chief standing by said "no, those doors cost $1200( or some such ridiculous price) dollars apiece" Scene leader says, " master chief, please do not confuse your rank with my authority. guys, take the damn door!"

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    I do have to say though, not EVERY engineering space in EVERY us navy vessel is protected by a large system. I was on a sub, and we were the suppression system for the engine room. No halon or CO2 or water mist. Just hose 3-1-1/3-1-2/3-1-3/3-2-1/3-2-2/3-3-1/3-3-2/3-3-3. and many many CO2 extinguishers. I just got out in 04.

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    Fire dawg, were you statined in Rotten Groton? I was an MP on the base from 96-99. Oh ya, sorry to see you were a bubblehead.

    Doug, on the Simon Lake we main space engineers HAD to wear the fire retardant coveralls at alll times int he pit. The ship's crew wore standard coveralls and had to wear a full dungaree uniform beneath them. It was one benefit of being an engineer!!!!

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    No I was in Kings Bay GA. I was on the USS Wyoming. Nuke ET...slang for Nuclear Reactor Operator.

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    Thanks for posting that was a really interesting read

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    The MAA's on the Lake would check people to see if they had a FULL uniform on beneath the coveralls. I don't know how many would get caught with a half shirt and they'd cut the legs off thier pants and sew them on the coveralls to make it appear they had the dungarees on. I too wonder what they wear now days. I got out just as the Navy was changing the uniforms from dungarees to better fitting pants. The women even looked good in the new pants!!

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    Quote Originally Posted by rfdmn09 View Post
    Doug, on the Simon Lake we main space engineers HAD to wear the fire retardant coveralls at alll times int he pit. The ship's crew wore standard coveralls and had to wear a full dungaree uniform beneath them. It was one benefit of being an engineer!!!!
    When I was a BT in Mahan(DDG42),if we weren't in dungarees and tees,(the MAA just LOVED seeing us in the passageways)we'd wear coveralls but if I remember right,they were plain ol cotton.Can't say about fire resistance,though.
    I stayed in Repair V for GQ after crossrating into BM but we never put on coveralls for fires.Might have been a good idea before getting actual PPE like the fire service has.
    Like others have posted,in the "old Navy",we'd tuck the dungarees into our socks(and show who was wearing white ones underneath)button up the chambray shirts,put on an OBA and have at it with the fire.
    I doubt if any of us went back in that we'd do it the old way when the fire party was called away.

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