Seattle F.D. Gets Federal Grant To Study Marine Fire Protection
A little more than a year ago, the Seattle Fire Department began to develop methods of improving marine fire protection for its seaport city. The project attracted interest of other port-city fire departments throughout the state. Several months ago the Federal Maritime Commission (MARAD) began to express interest in the program. MARAD and port-city fire departments have seen a need for improvements in marine fire protection. U.S. Coast Guard figures indicate that over 1700 fires have occurred aboard all types of American commercial vessels since 1964. The total loss— $150 million. Almost 37 percent of these fires resulted in total loss of these vessels.
Senator Warren G. Magnuson (DWash.) was one of the primary Congressional sponsors of a bill to assist in funding the nation’s first maritime fire fighting program. Magnuson has said this pilot project will be applicable to all the nation’s seaports. The total grant amounts to $260,000.
Recently, $37,000 for the first phase was presented by MARAD to the Washington State Coordination Council for Education. According to Lieutenant R.L. Coulter of the SFD marine division, the state council has subcontracted the project to the SFD. “This 24-month project is in two phases,” Coulter said. “The first is a fivemonth planning project, which is under way right now. A 19-month operation and training program will follow.”
The planning and development stage has three major parts. The goal is to develop a system of fire protection which can be applied to any Washington port city.
Pre-fire plan manuals
One of the biggest problems fire departments have in combating ship fires, according to the SFD project summary, is the lack of quick-reference information about that ship. Under this part of the program, vessels that routinely call at Washington State ports will have standardized pre-fire manuals prepared. A universal format will speed exchanges of information between various agencies. Each manual will be made in multiple copies with each cooperating port-city fire department, at which the ship calls, retaining a copy. One copy will be aboard ship for use in the event of fire.
All cooperating fire departments will participate in the preparation of these manuals in order to share the manpower and fiscal support.
The second part of the project involves developing an outline for a new ship fire fighting training manual. This manual will deal with basic ship construction, classes and types of ships, built-in fire protection systems and fire chemistry. Other aspects include basic fire tactics, ship stability and ship fire tactics.
This manual will be designed in such a way that it can be utilized by off-shore seamen, fishermen, inland boatmen, military personnel as well as municipal fire fighters.
Many ships could be saved from total destruction by fire if proper equipment and experience had been available during the early stages of a fire. This is especially true with fires that occur while a ship is under way.
This section of the project, as proposed, will give the master of a distressed vessel three options:
- The master will be able to request special information and instructions via radio from an on-shore municipal fire department. The list of information could include data on chemicals, tactical advice or any other related information.
- He will be able to request delivery of special or additional fire fighting equipment to combat a fire.
- Should the master think it necessary, he will be able to request assistance from professional fire fighters. From one or two advisors to a trained team could be dispatched to assist the crew in extinguishing a fire.
Because specialized manpower will
be needed, the project proposes the formation of a corps of professional fire fighters. Each man will undergo intensive training in shipboard fires. It is also proposed that specialized fire fighting equipment be placed in three strategic locations within the state.
A ship requesting assistance will be charged for salaries of advisors and fire fighters and damaged or expended equipment. Transportation for men and equipment would be provided through a cooperative agreement with federal, state and local agencies.
Research and evaluation
Researchers are now in the process of investigating all known problems in marine fire protection.
“This is a cooperative effort,” said Captain Bob Hansen, the project’s director. “The military, municipal fire departments and the maritime industry are all assisting in this project,” he continued. “Their names are too numerous to mention.”
Eighteen Washington port-city fire departments are involved, plus Portland, Ore., and Vancouver and Victoria, British Columbia.
“Nine working committees of 120 Seattle firemen have been established,” Lieutenant Coulter said. “They all are working on their own time.”
Although the marine fire protection system will function operationally in Washington State, it is hoped that the system will be adopted nationally. Every effort is being made to design the system so it will have the widest possible application.
Reprinted from the April 1974 issue of Reporter, published by the Port of Seattle.