Ship Fires vs. Structure Fires: Differences and Preparation

Issue 110 and Volume 162.

BY RICHARD A. COLOMBI JR. Year after year, firefighters who work around the nation’s seaports are confronted with emergencies that they are less than fully prepared to deal with: the much-dreaded fires that occur aboard large vessels. Any firefighter who has ever fought one knows they are indeed dreaded, even feared, and rightly so. The sheer magnitude of the challenge that a ship fire presents to the responding units can be very intimidating and may quickly overwhelm the available resources. These necessary resources will vary dramatically according to the type of vessel involved—i.e., cargo or passenger. Although we in the fire service spend a lot of time preparing for the “big one,” we routinely overlook the special requirements of these potentially devastating incidents. The shortcomings in preparedness generally include a lack of appropriate equipment and detailed training for those who will respond to these fires. The result could be a…

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