Tuesday, June 30, 2009

This and the last posting are a bit out of sequence as the truck fire occurred before the FIREBLAST training. June 19th to be exact. Ferry County E-911 Dispatch paged out for Curlew Fire "report of fire Kinross Gold Mine K2 site." That was at 0415:hours, early Friday morning. The mine site is within half a mile of my residence thus I was the first of the fire response group on scene. The first of this short series of photographs is what the truck looked like when I arrived on scene. Cab fully engulfed to say the least.

Arriving on scene I did a safety size-up. Besides the obvious - truck on fire, I noted the following:

  1. Fire in the vehicle was at least an hour old given the amount of the truck burned.
  2. Power lines above the truck were probably still hot and possibly compromised due exposure to the heat. Possibility of tensile failure and charged lines falling.
  3. Not enough moisture in the smoke coming from the truck to pose a real problem of arching from the lines.
  4. Truck's diesel tank compromised and leaking, will need hazmat containment and recovery.
  5. Exposure - 2nd truck taking heat damage from fire, possibly compromise of mechanical systems.

Once I found a safe place to park my command vehicle I established contact with the mine employee who reported the fire upon coming to work. He provided some additional details.

Just a few minutes after my arrival WA DNR Highlands Engine 122 was the next resource on scene. Engine Leader set up a class A foam system in an 1.5 inch hoseline. Immediately afterwards Curlew engine 80 arrived on scene. The assistant Fire Chief was decked out in bunker gear and after a briefing noting the above hazards and a plan of attack, took the position of nozzle man. Other firefighters arrived and supported the effort. A mine employee started a 3,000 gallon tender and supplied water to the pumper truck

Other mine employees arriving on-shift were initially kept back from the incident scene. Although one mine employee had a good idea of using an on site 3,000 tender for water supply to the pump truck. That greatly assisted with the suppression effort. Once the fire department had the blaze knocked down the driver of the 2nd truck was allowed to move it from the exposed zone & into a safe area for inspection.

Using the heavy equipment on scene and absorbent pads the mine in coordination with the fire department established a hazmat response and contained the diesel leaking from the burning truck.

It was later determined that the truck that burned had been having electrical shorting problems. It is suspected that an electrical shortage in the truck systems started a fire which later consumed the vehicle in the early morning hours.
Link to Kinross Gold Corp
Link to Kinross Kettle River project

Sunday, June 28, 2009

FIREBLAST training

Been a few months since I last found myself at this keyboard and working on this blog. Fire training, firefighting, working here at my riverhome, and a myriad of other things taking time. John Lennon once said, "Life is what happens when you're busy making other plans".

This posting is about structural fire training. Washington State Firefighter Association has a mobile live fire training facility called the FIREBLAST trailer. After two years of attempting to schedule it into northwestern Ferry County things finally came together. The following are photos of what it's like to train in the FIREBLAST trailer.

Ferry/Okanogan FPD #14 (Curlew Fire Department) hosted the training trailer and we did so in cooperation with FY/OK FPD #13 (Republic Fire Department). Logistics were made easier for the volunteer instructor crew by staging the training adjacent to Republic Fire Station, as seen in this photograph below.

In the image above; Ron, the burn boss is giving the initial briefing to the Curlew Fire group. We had one of the Republic fire staff join us on Saturday, their primary group went through the exercise on Sunday.

As part of the continuing orientation to the training one of the volunteer instructors (above) is demonstrating the type of spray pattern to be used during the engagement.

We had identified an 'A' Squad, the firefighters & officers likely to be the lead team at an actual interior structural combat incident and a 'B' Squad those firefighters and officers who would be back-up and support of the 'A' Squad. Ron decided to mix things up by sending the 'B' Squad in first. There were a few wide eyes and nervous glances on the faces of some firefighters who had never entered a burning building in SCBA (Self Contained Breathing Apparatus).

In the photo above the 'A' Squad readies for entry.

Firefighters are in heavy bunker gear, full head shield and hardhat with visor over their SCBA mask. On their back is a cylinder of compressed air for breathing. They are in heavy metal shanked boots and wearing heavy gloves. Other firefighters assist with 'checking their buddy out' to assure all gear is donned properly and all systems are working. Of course on an 85* day the firefighters heat up rapidly while awaiting entry into the fireground.

The process for entry goes like this; a two person entry team is ready at the rear door of the trailer. This simulates their approach to a house on fire. The hose tender feels the door for heat and visually indicates to the nozzleman where the heat level is. The door is opened a crack to check for reaction to the fire and if safe the team continues into the building with the nozzleman leading. Of course heat rises so the firefighters drop to their knees and crawl into the building. Rounding the corner of in the training simulator this is what they see.

A fire burning out of control deep in the structure. Communication is difficult inside all that gear with the sounds of the fire and other noises drowning out anything other than direct in-your-face shouts. But the firefighters proceed onward. This is what they came for. To engage the fire.

The FIREBLAST is serious training. The heat at standing head level is staggering (up to 200*), near the ceiling it is deadly (one session reached 800* Fahrenheit) and most firefighters break into a heavy sweat crawling into a constricted area to engage a fire which is developing into a dangerous blaze. To top off the challenges visibility is very limited. And if you make the mistake of fogging the fire with a wide stream of water instead of pushing it back with a focused spray pattern, your mask and face shield steam up and all visibility can be lost.

Time to cool this 'roll-over', push the fire back and knock it down. The great thing about the FIREBLAST training trailer is that the firefighters get to practice their tactics over and over. Work through their mistakes and go at it again.

One squad out, one squad in and another on deck. The training proceeds long into the day. These firefighters will sleep well tonight.

This is the last photo in this set. Republic Fire Station forms the backdrop for the firefighters atop the FIREBLAST trailer. This was a great training and all firefighters and officers learned a lot. Our thanks to Washington State Firefighter Association.


Link to Wahington State Firefighter Association: http://www.wsffa.org/

Link to Republic WA: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Republic,_Washington

Link to Ferry County WA: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ferry_County,_Washington