Foam Equipment Has Thorough Test In Big Oil Fire

Foam Equipment Has Thorough Test In Big Oil Fire

Spectacular Blaze in Gasoline Agitators at Everett, Mass., Fought With Both Foam and Water Lines—Two Kinds of Foam Used


Boston, Mass.

Chief Philip E. Ham, Everett, Mass.

AHIGHLY spectacular fire took place early in the morning of January 19 in gasoline agitators at the plant of the Beacon Oil Company on Beacham Street, Everett, Mass. The flames burned for over 11 hours before they were completely extinguished. Both foam and water were used in fighting the blaze and anparatus was present from Everett, Chelsea, and Boston. Chief Philip A. Ham, of the Everett Fire Department, was in general charge o f operations. The cause of the fire has not been determined.

Three agitators, each containing about 2,000 barrels of gasoline, were involved in the fire. Two were badly burned out and a third ignited, but was extinguished quickly by the vse of the Foamite equipment connected with the top of the agitator. At the start of the fire, pumps were started in the yard connected with the two tanks which contained 85,000 gallons of the Foamite solution. A short time afterward it appeared that the Foamite had extinguished the flames in the No. 1 Agitator which was the only one then involved ; but sometime afterward the blaze flashed up again probably from fire burning at the base of the agitator and the flames then communicated to the other agitators, Numbers 1 and 2, blazing fiercely for hours although the fire in No. 3 was soon put out. It is possible that the effects of the F’oamite were weakened by the application of steam through steam pipes connected with the tanks and further diminished by the concentration of water lines. The failure to bring mobile Foamite lines into play on the fire at the base of the agitators is blamed by Bernard W. Dezotell, New England manager of the Foamite-Childs Corporation, for the ultimate spread of the flames. One of the Foamite supply pipes leading to the agitators was found to be broken early in the morning and several hours were required to repair it.

Agitator No. 2 of Beacon Oil Company Showing How Foam Generator and Line Were Placed in Extinguishing Fire.

The agitators were steel cylindrical tanks lined with lead and capped over on top, out with vents and small openings for escape of gas. There are vents on top known as explosion doors. The agitators are used in the final refining or “washing” process in the manufacture of commercial gasoline.

How the Fire Was Fought

The first alarm received by the Everett Fire Department for the* blaze was recorded at 5:40 a. m. from Box 3b. Chief Ham ordered a second alarm sounded at 6:01 a. m. An unauthorized call was sounded by a citizen from Box 34 at 7:25. Chief Ham had 84 firemen at work and was aided in directing the men by Assistant Chief George E. Hatch and Acting Deputy Chief John A. Cameron. Fifteen water lines were used, principally to wet down the outside of the burning agitators and to cool down nearby oil tanks. The hose in use was all 2 1/2 inch double jacketed cotton rubber lined hose. Besides the lines from motor pumping engines which connected to post hydrants having a pressure of 50 pounds there were lines used by the oil company fire brigade from yard hydrants for which pressure was furnished by steam pumps in the oil plant.

Beacon Oil Fire Showing Agitators Numbers 1, 2 and 3 Afire. Agitator No. 2 in the Center.

Apparatus in Service

The apparatus in service was as follows: From the Everett Fire Department, one 1,000 gallon Seagrave motor pumping engine and two 750 gallon Maxim motor pumping engines; from the Chelsea Fire Department, one 750 gallon Seagrave motor pumping engine; and from the Boston Fire Department, two 750 gallon Amcrican-La France motor pumping engines. The Foamite Engine of the Boston Department was sent to the scene and held in reserve for emergency service. Two Eastman deluge sets were used by the Everett firemen.

An Amdyco continuous foam generator which was being tested at the Factory Mutual Laboratory in Everett was brought to the plant in the morning and this together with The Boston Foamite engine was held in reserve for emergency use in case the fire spread outside of the dikes.

The Boston officials of the Foamitc-Childs Corporation state that in the afternoon Foamite lines from a nearbv yard Foamite hydrant were siamesed into a 35 foot length of 2-inch iron pipe and carried up over Agitators 4 and 3 and over an iron runway to the No. 2 Agitator, and that this pipe was put in through one of the explosion doors and the Foamite liquid then pumped through these Siamesed lines with the pipe acting as a mixing chamber and pouring the Foamite down inside the Agitator on top of the burning gasoline.

A. C. Whiting, of the Boston office of the Amdyco firm, states that in the afternoon when the fire was still burning within the No. 2 Agitator, a line was laid in from a continuous foam generator of the Amdyco Corporation. The hose used waregular fire department hose, 2 1/2-inch cotton rubber lined, and was connected to a yard water hydrant. The Amdyco generator connected to this hose was placed on the iron bridge between Agitators 3 and 4. A 50 foot length of hose led from generator to a 2-inch iron pipe about 20 feet long. This pipe was stuck into an explosion door on top of the Agitator and played a stream onto the fire which was extinguished in less than two minutes after the line began operating. The stream was kept in service for approximately 15 minutes and water lines were played against the outside of the tank for some time longer. According to Chief Ham it was this foam stream that extinguished the fire in Agitator No. 2.

The cans of Amdyco powder used had just arrived in Boston and were rushed to the scene from the railroad freight yards. Chief Ham stated that the operation of this stream was highly efficient. Mr. Whiting was in charge at the Amdyco equipment used at the fire.

Other Fire Chiefs Present

Among the fire department officials who visited the scene of the fire were Chief Daniel F. Sennott, of Boston; Chief David M. Hudson, of Chelsea; Chief Frank C. Newman, of Melrose; Chief Graham, of Wakefield; and Chief Patrick J. Hurley, of Holyoke.

The employes of the Beacon Oil Company who aided the firemen were directed by Chief Matthews, of the plant fire brigade. A strong westerly was blowing at the time of the fire. Oil was pumped away from nearby tanks and a number of tank wagons in the yard were hastily driven away from the scene after being filled from tanks to windward of the fire. These tanks were some distance away but were emptied as a precautionary measure.

Walter Perellis, superintendent of the oil plant, suffered painful injuries by scalding his feet when he stepped into a pool of hot water from a steam pipe. William Kehoe, of Engine 32, Boston F. D., injured his hand by getting it caught in part of the motor pumping mechanism. Hot coffee and sandwiches were distributed from the Salvation Army emergency truck. The “all out” signal was sounded over the Everett fire alarm system at 7:21 p. m.

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