Navy-Civilian Cooperation Features “Operation 95” at Great Lakes
Four day “training by doing” session provides Northeast Illinois fire fighters with wide range of fire problems
—U. S. Navy Photo
THE U. S. NAVY has been responsible for a training project which may be recorded as a milestone in fire service progress. Over a four-day period “Operation 95,” conducted at the Naval Training Center, Great Lakes, Illinois, afforded a wide variety of fire problems to the more than 450 volunteer and paid Northeastern Illinois, municipal, governmental and industrial fire fighters who participated.
The actual conduct of the project was under the direction of Great Lakes Fire Chief LeRoy H. Ellis and Harry Wolff, field officer for the Western Actuarial Bureau, Chicago. Facilities and convenience’s were provided by Captain A. C. Burrows, USN, Commander, Training Center; Captain W. H. Harmon, USN, Assistant Commander; and Captain J. F. Harper, USN, Commanding Officer, Administrative Command.
Because of the magnitude of the operation and in order to realize the maximum value from practical fire fighting training possible in an operation of this scope, the events were scheduled over a period of four days, the two weekends of September 22-23 and 29-30 last.
Project named for building
The World War I era structure designated as “Building 95,” from which the project derived its name, was of heavy mill construction, 232 x 100 feet, with three floors. Twenty-seven rooms, varying in size from 8 x 12 feet to single areas of 9,000 square feet provided fire fighters with a wide variety of structural fire problems. There were also large unenclosed elevator shaft; open stairways; long corridors; tightly confined rooms and large open areas.
A substandard fire wall divided east and west halves of the building. Walls insulated with both cork and sawdust; double floor construction; partitions of metal lath and plaster, wood lath and plaster, plywood and plasterboard; and flooring ranging from 1 x 4-inch rough to 3-inch hardwood with overlays of asphalt and tile, presented many and varied fire problems for the “students.”
A severe exposure existed on the east, consisting of a laundry building of ordinary construction. This was located less than 20 feet from the wooden warehouse. Installed in the brick wall on the exposed side were 315 glass panels, 10 x 14 inches, in metal frames. Other structures in the vicinity were generally large, of wartime frame construction, some with tarpaper roofs, although none was in close proximity to “95.” Weather during the twoweekend affair was generally fair and cool, with winds usually brisk and changeable.
Variety of equipment used
Motor fire apparatus included virtually all types of equipment currently in service, from 1,000 gpm pumping engines to aerial ladders—quads and quints. Fire hose utilized varied from 3/4 and 1-inch conventional and high pressure fog lines, to 3-inch water tower lines of aerials and turret nozzles. Fog guns, including the new 1,000 gpm “Jumbos,” were used on the many fires kindled. Ladders varied from 10-foot “attic” models to 100-foot tractor aerial “stick,” both metal and wood. Breathing apparatus included demand air, self-contained, Navy OBA and “all-purpose” canister models. Ample opportunities were afforded to use and test the effectiveness of each type. Nearly every forcible entry tool “in the book” was utilized under actual fire conditions. Even salvage covers were employed in the operation for the preservation of property exposed to water spray.
The various evolutions performed over the period included the laying of large and small (straight and reverse) hose lines, with apparatus and manually. Weak master streams were fortified by siamesing lines, using 3-inch hose and altering tips. Large lines were wyed into smaller ones for maneuverability and overhauling. Practical methods and procedures were severely tested.
It was planned to arrange 22 fires over the two weekends in such a manner that most problems of fire fighting could be faced by the participants. It was apparent on the first day that the schedule would have to be revised and a final total of 13 fires were ignited. The east half of the building was destroyed during the first weekend and the remaining portion on the final day.
The training received in the protection of exposures will undoubtedly contribute to loss reductions in future fire emergencies in Northeastern Illinois. The burning of the east half of the warehouse on Sunday, September 23, indicates the severity of the operations. One end of this building was 20 feet from the aforementioned laundry. The wind changed shortly after ignition of the west end of the section and reached a velocity of 34 mph, blowing toward the exposure. Utilizing one large calibre ladder pipe fog nozzle at a low angle and three similar nozzles in pipe holders, not one pane of glass was broken until the unexpected collapse of the fire escape and wall which broke 58 panes and afforded the Great Lakes department a challengine salvage Droblem
which was quickly and efficiently solved. The “loss” was $137 in glass replacement. No water damage occurred and the laundry was operating “as usual” in the morning.
Broad training possible
Extensive laddering was resorted to at various stages of the fires. The preladdering of several windows on the downwind
side of one major blaze almost resulted in their loss as hose lines had been tied into them and fire spread with unanticipated rapidity. Employing protective hand lines, and at considerable risk, these ladders were successfully retrieved.
A lesson in fire behavior in concealed spaces was vividly demonstrated on the initial day of the test when fire, ignited in a 30 x 100 foot shed believed to be separately built from the main 3-story structure, blossomed out in the second and third stories of the latter. It was brought under control only by a heavy concentration of manpower and multiple stream devices including an aerial ladder pipe. This detail of the operation provided all the thrills and anxieties that are encountered under similar conditions on the fire ground.
Pump operators had a field day. Operations included use of heavy stream appliances, an uncommon evolution for most small fire departments, but one which requires experience and know-how in advance of emergencies if it is to be successful. Tandem and relay pumping layouts were provided as well as two pumpers operating from a single hydrant in a demonstration and test of the practicability of “doubling up” at a plug.
These evolutions broadened the experience of the participants and gave all an opportunity to view and judge for themselves the value of such procedures.
To make matters even more realistic, one of the two pumpers supplying a 1000-gpm fog nozzle developed motor trouble. Experience was gained in the problem of replacing an ailing machine at a hydrant when every gallon was needed, and every second of delay was a serious matter.
A lesson of prime importance to all fire fighters was the wearing of adequate personal protection apparel. A mandatory regulation in effect in many departments requires wearing the standard helmet while fighting fire. A falling timber “beaned” a Great Lakes fire fighter, but the trusty helmet saved him from injury. Men who failed to wear protective gloves discovered that they were receiving minor injuries on their hands.
by U. S. Firemen’s Equipment Co.
S. Navy Photo
V. 8. Navy Photo
At one point in the first day’s operations, a fast burning blaze trapped two fire fighters who had forgotten the basic rule “never leave your line” and became lost in smoke. Ladders were hurriedly placed and rescue teams entered the second floor where one man was found overcome and the other less seriously affected. Both were given oxygen by rescue personnel at the scene and one was hospitalized for a brief period. The value of actually using breathing apparatus under conditions cannot be overestimated. The confidence gained by those operating with this equipment cannot help but prove valuable in future work. The incident was also an inspiration to those who observed the results.
The value of knowing something about the chemistry of fire and the capacity of fog to absorb heat was demonstrated time and time again as brief bursts from fog lines cooled mounting temperatures within the rooms of the test buildings and enabled men to work their way into smoke-laden spaces. During the interval of the final burn-down on September 30, the value of large volume fog nozzles, was graphically demonstrated. The white hot interior sent a blistering heat wave toward the hose crews who cooled flying brands and heat completely with these devices. The Brothers had their choice of a hot or cold shower at the time, but no one gave ground and paid and volunteer men bore their torment with fortitude.
It would be impossible to place a value on the benefits derived from “Operation 95” by those who took part in this bigtime fire service feature. It can be said however that few if any other men in our profession have ever been exposed to as many varied, realistic fire problems in so brief a span, each one as an active participant.
The Department of the Navy deserves great credit for initiating a project of this magnitude and seeing it through to a successful conclusion.
The training opportunities and practical experience gained by the 484 Northeastern Illinois fire fighters participating in the four-day tests, had never been available to them previously. The scores of enthusiastic letters and comments received by the Navy officials at Great Lakes and by the Western Actuarial Bureau revealed not only sincere expressions of gratitude for the unusual training afforded, but also demonstrated the desire of the participants for future opportunities of this kind.
—U. S. Navy Photo
—V. S. Navy Photo