Marine Firefighting Inc.

Recent seminars

Boat Fires in the Desert

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Marine Firefighting Inc. (MFI) delivered a three day seminar for the US National Parks Service (NPS) on beautiful Lake Powell in Glen Canyon National Park which straddles both Utah and Arizona. No one would expect to see very many boats in the desert, but Lake Powell was busy with all types of boats including many house boats.

We were also joined by several members of the Page, Arizona Fire Department. Page FD would be called in on mutual aid if any large fire occurred on the lake or in the Wahweap Marina where our seminar took place. MFI recommends sharing information and drilling with neighboring Departments who might be called in to help with your marina fire.

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After two days of classroom seminars and a marina familiarization walk-through we were ready to put what we learned into practice. Several exercises were planned and all the students got the opportunity to participate.

Because most of the boats in this area of Lake Powell were houseboats, we decided to use one of them for our drills. If there is no life at risk, any boat with a major fire should first be hit from a distance. The students heard me say, "Use the reach of your stream" many times during the 3-day exercise.

If your area also has house boat rentals you may be able to become familiar with the common layout of these boats. Individual private house boats will have varied layouts but usually rentals are mostly of a common design. Is your Department informed about small boat and marina firefighting? Click the camera again to see the next photo.

















After initial knock down the firefighters prepared to board the boat for final extinguishment. In many cases it is safer to bring the boat to an isolated dock where land based firefighters can safely perform the overhaul. However, that is not always possible. So, for this drill, it was decided to board. The National Park Service had several boats at this marina and this one, with its bow ramp, was used to safely board the house boat.

Check your area to see if the deck of your fireboat will allow safely boarding other vessels.

Remember, if you will be operating in smoke then all OSHA requirements are still in effect. PPE and masks are required. Click camera for next photo


































Stepping from one boat to another is not easy in a bathing suit and deck shoes. It becomes very difficult and dangerous in full bunker gear and a mask. At first the operator tried to hold the fireboat against the houseboat with forward thrust but that only made the houseboat spin away. We then tied the two boats together to make it safer to step across. I always caution in my seminars that whenever you tie up to a vessel in distress you should also be ready to remove or cut those lines if you need to get away in a hurry.

Here you see an attack line and a back up line made ready to move aboard. On small fireboats you may not be able to lay out two hose lines on the small deck. If available, a second fireboat might be able to have the second line ready for back up. Click the camera again to see the next page.























If victims are found you must perform an initial assessment, if the scene is safe. If it is not safe, then you will have to carefully remove the victim to an area where it will be safe to conduct the assessment.

In both our "Small Boat and Marina Fire" seminar and in our "Emergency Operations With Small Fireboats" seminar we stress the importance of having the best available medically trained Firefighter on your fireboat. You will be working away from land and help may take too long to get to you if someone is injured.

And it doesn't have to be a civilian casualty. One of your own firefighters might also get injured while away from land.

Insure you have the needed medical equipment also. Backboards and stokes baskets with a flotation collar are very useful.

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Once aboard you would operate as you would at a structural fire. Keep low and work in teams. Nozzle person and backup person work together to turn nozzle in the direction needed.

Insure that the pump operator starts water at minimum working pressure and increases as needed. Too much pressure on a nozzle while standing on the deck of a boat may cause the nozzle person to go for an un-called for and very dangerous swim.

Quite often only one or two lengths of hose will be required.

Remember, any enclosed space may have high concentrations of carbon monoxide. Wear your mask anytime you are operating in smoke or entering enclosed spaces at a vessel fire.

There might also have been a CO2 system aboard even the smallest boats. In that case there would be a reduced O2 level.

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I want to thank Mr. Mark Gorman (NPS Structural Fire Operations Program Manager) for having the vision and interest in the safety of the people under his direction, as well as the public they protect. He understood the need for specific training in marine operations and took the initiative to make this program happen.

I also want to thank Kean Mihata (Emergency Services Manager Glen Canyon National Recreation Area). Kean supervises one of the best trained and best motivated group of Firefighters that I have had the pleasure of training. Kean also made a great vicitm in our drills. Everyone in the Glen Canyon division of the NPS and the members of the Page FD who took the time to attend are to be congratulated for a job well done.

I will be writing a full article about this training session in the near future. If you are not already on the mail list and would like to be notified when new articles appear then sign up on the home page.

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Whether you have a Fireboat or not, is your Department ready to handle a large scale Marina Fire? Do your Firefighters know how to safely operate at a marina or small boat fire? If you do have a fireboat do your Firefighters know how to operate it safely at emergencies?

Contact Marine Firefighting Inc. today to set up your date for our seminar about "Small Boat and Marina Fires" or "Emergency Ops With Small Fireboats"

Click on either title to get details of seminars.

To have your Department featured here, contact us via e-mail for directions on how to send us your marine fire photo files. Be Safe!

Marine Firefighting Inc.