Thursday, June 18, 2009

A letter to Dad

We had a fire today in the galley. Ironically, I was wearing my last EVFD T-shirt today. I was on watch and it was 1645 when the fire alarm went off. I sent my AB Gill down to the galley deck with the radio, but he hadn’t gotten far when I got a call from the galley saying that the stove (grill) was on fire. I told them to hit it with a fire extinguisher and immediately sounded the fire/emergency signal on the general alarm. The captain was there about a minute later and I was out the door racing down the outside ladders. On my way down I heard the engineers call out that power was secured to the galley.

I got to the galley and found that some of the serving windows were still open and the 3rd mate firing off his second 15# CO2 extinguisher at a fire that was licking out of the back of the grill. I threw the windows shut and screamed for him to drop the CO2 and grab some dry chemical extinguishers. He was a bit out of his element and was just blasting away. I told him to hit the fire which seated it, but it flared up every 30 seconds or so. I grabbed another can and started showing him where I wanted him to spray the agent.

Of course now the galley was getting smoky and full of dry chemical, and I didn’t have SCBA or a suit on. I screamed down the ladder for a pack, but my Bosun, in his excitement, started suiting up instead. FF1 material they are not, and I finally had to run down there myself, and shoving people out of the way, threw a pack in about 30 seconds and ran back up to tend the fire.

Finally I had three other guys there with extinguishers and fire suits and SCBA. We had the fire beaten down, but we couldn’t get to the seat with the grill lid. I used some fire gloves and tried to lift the grill but couldn’t get enough grip or leverage to get under the thing. I ran out the door and grabbed the nearest fire axe and headed back; but not before yelling out the door for another axe. Apparently there was a bunch of crashing about before another axe was located, and with the axes, we pried up the grill lid and my boys hit it with a cross stream of dry chemical. With that the fire was out, but there was smoke and agent all over the deck.

I used a combination push/pull ventilation on the deck with a positive supply in one door and then a suction out the other door. I then alternated doors to air out each space individually. I also had the CE fire up the galley hood exhaust fan to clear the galley a bit.

The second mate watched the exposures and we had a successful execution of the fire. The biggest irony of this whole situation is that three days ago I told the captain that I wanted a fire drill underway. I told him that I didn’t know the crew and I wanted a drill. I also knew that one of the galley people was brand new, and another had just gotten back from vacation. So, naturally I had a galley fire in the drill. Not only was it in the galley, I told them that it was the grill on fire. They weren’t quite clued in at that point, but I walked them through it and we had a full dress response to the fire. Afterwards, the 3rd mate demonstrated fire extinguishers at the safety meeting. 48 hours later we were putting all of that training to good use and of course it didn’t go at all like we trained. Still, no one got hurt and we isolated the damage to the stove and some food loss.

As for cause, there was a 400V ground that hit the engine room literally minutes before the fire started so I suspect that one of the heating elements or other wires under there had some insulation failure and arced, causing the grease in the grease trap to light up.

After the fire, I told everyone that we were having a picnic on the stern and the steward had to put out tuna and other sandwiches he had in the refrigeration boxes since the ribeyes they were about to cook weren’t going to eatable. I also got the captain to spring for a couple of cases of soda. As I dropped the cases on the table, I said that I’d love to give everyone a double ration of rum, but I didn’t have any, so Coke a Cola would have to do.

This has been a heck of an opening act for this tour. I hope the last of the excitment is over.