Plant Fire Protection Pays in Huge Wood Products Mill

Plant Fire Protection Pays in Huge Wood Products Mill

White Pine Sash Company Maintains Well Trained Fire Force at Spokane Plant

THIS is the story of fire prevention teamwork between management, employees, insurance underwriters and municipal firemen who faced a challenge and met it successfully.

The scene is Spokane, Washington, home of the White Pine Sash Company, where some 500 employees (8 per cent women) are engaged in production of window and door frames and screens, furniture stock, box and casket shook, combination doors, toy specialties from log to finished product and like merchandise to supply the company’s warehouses in Chicago, New York and Boston.

The sprawling frame-construction mill and yards spread over an area equivalent to 20 city blocks. With a sales volume of $5,000,000 annually, the plant must remain in continuous operation to maintain its position in a highly competitive market. A fire of any consequence, one that would damage but one of the numerous specially constructed machines in the plant, could force a shutdown that easily could be permanent. As White Pine Sash President, K. Henry Klopp put it, “An 18 month shutdown would force us out of the market. There would be no reason to reopen operations.”

Another consideration is the fact that when you have a value of better than three and one-half million dollars in highly flammable plant and supplies, insurance costs are not “peanuts.”

Klopp, whose father established the business at Spokane in 1910, is progressive and farsighted. He called his own plant officials together with insurance underwriters and officers of the Spokane City Fire Department, including Chief James T. Blamey, Captain of Inspectors Roy McDirmid and Drill Instructor Ormand Zapf. From that meeting came one of the most comprehensive and complete programs of plant fire protection said ever to be devised for that type of operation. The program was launched less than three years ago.

In August of last year, 16 officers of the city fire department were guests of the White Pine Sash employees and management at a “Fire Protection” party. Ten teams of “volunteer” fire-fighters from various departments of the plant went through their paces, demonstrating their knowledge of hose lines, nozzles, water pressure, alarm systems and a thorough understanding of what fire fighting is all about. They proved themselves well trained by their ability to recite the location of alarm boxes, hydrants, hose houses, hose reels and other fire protective apparatus within the mill and yards. A tour of the installation revealed a well-planned fire protection system and a considerable capital outlay in fire control.

In the lumber yards, where up to 14,000,000 board feet of lumber is stored at one time, are located 30-foot high towers on which are mounted turret nozzles with a 360-degree sweep. The ten towers are so spaced that every square inch of the storage yard can be wet down. The streams from the towers have a 10 to 15 feet overlap, with their 600-gallon per minute flow.

More than three miles of underground water lines have been laid solely for fire protection, and numerous hydrants have been installed, in addition to those maintained by the city. The company is not solely dependent upon city water supply, however. Giant pumps push water from their own wells into a 50,000-gallon storage tank located almost in the geographic center of the company’s grounds.

Because of city regulations, the company can not “tie into” the city water lines permanently, but valves are so arranged that an immediate tieup can be accomplished in a matter of seconds if there is a demand for additional water supply.

White Pine Sash Company's plant at Spokane.Inspector William Hingston, Spokane Fire Department, examines double automatic closing metal fire doors at White Pine plant. Note thickness of concrete fire wall separating manufacturing department from lumber storage bins.

Thousands of feet of finished lumber in a variety of sizes are stacked within the mill awaiting movement to the various finishing machines. Lumber is stacked much in the manner of goods in a storage warehouse, with wide aisles between. A network of overhead sprinklers has been installed throughout the plant, including the saw mill. No part of the structure is unprotected, and even a small blaze would set them into operation.

Good housekeeping is practiced by the sash mill workers. Although a tremendous amount of sawdust accumulates from the whirring machines, it quickly is carried to bins far removed from the manufacturing departments. Buildings are well lighted and painted. Especially easy to spot are the hose reels and alarm boxes, hung sufficiently high and painted brilliant red. Throughout all the buildings are signs calling attention to fire safety.

Within the last two years the plant has been divided into three parts by massive reenforced concrete firewalls, measuring 12 inches or more in thickness. The firewalls extend beyond the normal walls and roofs. Metal fire doors are hung on each side of the fire walls.

A Trained 80-Member Fire Squad

Realizing that mechanical fire protective measures are only part of the job, Klopp called on his personnel manager and Fire Marshal, Ralph D. Wise, to organize the plant’s safety program. Wise took his job seriously. He studied and worked with fire underwriters and members of the city fire department to organize a fire patrol. While all plant personnel receive a certain amount of training at their safety meetings, the 80-member fire squad is trained both in preventing fires and fighting fire. About 65 of the day crew men have been divided into fire companies and assigned to specific duties in case of fire. Fifteen night crew men and watchmen are similarly organized.

The companies, in case of fire, assemble at the several “hose houses” scattered about the plant and yards. Each man has a specific task, the same as with a well-organized ladder or hose company. There is a hydrant man, a nozzle man and so forth. The men have been taught how to do their jobs properly and quickly. There is no floundering and no guess work. At the recent “Fire Protection” party, city firemen observed the men in action and gave them helpful tips. They were amazed at the manner in which the men assumed (Continued on page 236) (Continued from page 218) their assignments seriously and thoughtfully.

Top: Ten high towers, scattered about the storage yards of the White Pine Sash Company at Spokane, Wash., shoot 600 gallons of water a minute from 360-degree turret nozzles. The towers are so located that every inch of the yard, where millions of board feet of lumber are stored, can be covered with water quickly. Water streams overlap.Bottom: Massive concrete fire walls, running at right angles to each other, are a part of the recently adopted program of fire safety which has focused attention on the White Pine Sash Co. of Spokane. With these, and another fire wall extending above roof and walls of the frame buildings, the sprawling manufacturing plant is divided into three units.Left: One of the many hose reels within the manufacturing plant of the White Pine Sash Company is shown to demonstrate how they are kept free and easily located. The post, reel and standpipe are painted red. Hose is checked regularly.Right: Spokane City Fire Captain Virgil Deno examines hand drawn hose cart, housed in a red frame building adjacent to one of the company's concrete fire walls.

Protection of Wood Products Plant

Questioned about willingness of men to work on the fire detail, Wise explained, “These men realize that even a small fire could mean loss of a job. They also know that the company has made a tremendous effort to protect the plant and the men. They want to do their part and have been most willing and eager. We are proud of them.” The company also does its part by paying the men for all extra drill time, etc.

Spokane is also proud of the White Pine Sash Company. Fire Chief Blamey expressed it well when he said, “It is regrettable that more companies of their type throughout the country can not be made to realize the full importance of adequate fire protection. Any such mill must have more than normal facilities for preventing and fighting fire. We believe this company has one of the most modern and complete fire protection programs of any industry of the northwest and it is most deserving of recognition.

Just in case the hard headed businessman doesn’t think such a program pays off dollar-wise, here is the report of White Pine Sash’s General Superintendent: “We pay about 20 per cent less insurance premiums than we did three years ago. The rate change has been gradual, but so has our fire protection program. Everything we have undertaken, by the way, has been through recommendation of the fire underwriters or with their approval. Within recent months the Washington Rating Bureau has reduced building and equipment rate from 1.267 to 1.169 and our stock (stored lumber) rate from 1.357 to 1.225. During that period, there has been no comparable general change of the rate within the lumber industry locally or in the city of Spokane as a whole.”

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