Fire, walk with me

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It's been quite a long day... getting up at 05h30 had something to do with it I'd say, I hope I don't have to do that again anytime soon. I'm so much more an evening/night person instead of a "get up at sunrise" dude.

This morning we've had lots of theory about fire, what different classes of fires there are, and how to deal with them (basic stuff, nothing big at all - we're being trained for first minute fire control and not to be professional firefighters) and what kind of extinguisher to use on which type of fire.

Have you ever thought about the 4 different types of fire? I certainly never did!

Class A fire : solid goods
Class B fire : liquids
Class C fire : gasses
Calls D fire : metallics (magnesium, natrium and such)

and they all have their recommended fire fighting solution. In the afternoon we went out in the field to turn the theory into practice. We started off by handling/ending a kettle of burning oil, and after we all successfully completed the task, got a demonstration of what happens when you use water to try and extinguish it : disaster!

Then we moved on to extinguishing solids (in this case a computer that was burning, although helped a bit by gasoline poured over it and being lighted) for which we used CO2 extinguishers. That wasn't too much of a problem, although you need to "get" the technique to do it properly.

After that, we moved onto handling a firehose (a 45mm one, so it's pretty small and has low pressure) to know what it feels like. Then a quite large bassin filled with water was covered in gasoline and set aflame. Damn hot, and very spectacular as well. We use power based fire extinguishers to end the fire, and once again we were shown what happens when you try to handle burning liquids with water. Two volunteers took the 45mm hose to the bassin, and tried using it to put out the flames. While it seemed to work at first, it soon proved to be rather hazardous because the flames kept on crawling back towards them, often totally unforseen. The blazing fire was then put out using foam.

Final in-the-field exercise was getting stuck in the "smoke room" where you later on had to find your way through and exit. It looks easy, but it certainly is not. I made it through the room alright (I did notice the other door in the room when we first entered it) but in the corridor after the room, chairs and tables were place strategically to throw us off guard. When I reached the end-point, I somehow managed to completely miss the door that lead to the exit. So I returned on my steps to check if I had missed something vital in the corridor itself.

While going back, I met up with a colleague who was also proceeding in the exercise, and we exchanged a few quick words to make sure we didn't miss any exits along the way. I was convinced I didn't miss anything, to I started going the same way again, and when reaching the end, I did find the exit this time. It wasn't scary at all, and gives you a good indication of what it is to be in a room filled with smoke, although it's still far from the real thing.

It's been a busy but enjoyable day, where I did learn some very good and usable things!

Oh, did you know that during a fire, not the flames themselves are the most dangerous element, but the smoke is? It might sound a bit strange, but believe me : after your been in the smoke room and seen what the result is of an overflash during a fire, you'll think about smoke in a completely different way.

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Actually this fire stuff is basic lab safety and we all got taught that in first year. And again at masters level. We didn't get to go out and actually set fires, but then first year chemistry is dangerous enough :D

I sometimes forget that a lot of the lab technique stuff, particularly basic safety, isn't common knowledge among non-scientists. I've had it drummed into me over so many years that it's second nature. Which is actually pretty cool.

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This page contains a single entry by ServMe published on March 24, 2004 9:50 PM.

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