Ship fires are not something firefighters deal with every day. But when they do happen they require crews to reassess their conventional firefighting methods in favour of shipboard fire skills.
Boarding a ship is much like entering a miniature city, complete with fuel farms, a power plant, accommodation blocks, a restaurant and a warehouse. Not to mention the obstacle course of narrow passageways and small compartments.
In October 2014 a fire swept through an empty livestock ship in Fremantle Port causing millions of dollars of damage. More than 100 firefighters from stations across Perth battled the blaze.
To keep shipboard firefighting skills up to date Welshpool Fire Station organised an interagency training exercise with the Royal Australian Navy in May this year.
All Navy personnel are trained in fighting fires at sea where land based techniques may not be as effective.
Department of Fire and Emergency Services (DFES) Station Officer Jamie Anderson coordinated the training exercise with the Navy’s School of Survivability at Fleet Base West on Garden Island.
“It was a good refresher on shipboard firefighting incorporating compartment fire behaviour,” he said.
“The Navy have a dedicated three storey mock up ship with hatches, doors and narrow corridors. One side is entirely dedicated to firefighting.”
Drills during the day included simulations of a galley fire where a deep fat fryer exploded, an out of control engine room fire and a rubbish room fire.
Training also involved tackling one compartment fire, then increasing the intensity by dealing with two compartment fires simultaneously and then the final challenge of three.
Firefighters from Welshpool C Platoon were instructed by Warrant Officer Marine Technician Mark Karslake to conduct door entries.
The Navy also demonstrated their thermal lance cutting tool which they use to cut holes in the ship to apply water to the compartment.
“It was valuable to be able to train with the Navy and share our knowledge. This will enhance our skills should we be called out to a shipboard fire,” Jamie said.
DFES District Officer Newburn Tony Nicholas said the training exercise was a step towards building interagency relationships with the Navy.
“Sharing skills and knowledge will improve the service both DFES and the Navy provide to the community, “he said.
“Warrant Officer Karslake welcomed future training opportunities for DFES career and volunteer firefighters."