Wednesday, October 7, 2009

My experience of fire fighting

Had you ever got the chance to fight the fire ?

There had been enough time, I had the chance to see videos, hear news and stories related with fire accidents. But on a Friday, that was on 24th of July’09, I got a real life experience with fire accident at my factory.

There was a place inside the factory where scrap tyres would be dumped. These tyres go out when buyers procure them for making out rubber based products. These tyres where the fire accident happened are of the sizes that are fitted in bus & lorry which weigh above 50 Kgs. The location of the scrap yard is some half a kilo meter from my working location.

The first sight I came to know about this bad incident was from a black smoke which was gushing high up into the sky. Some of us started rushing to the accident site. The fierce flame was engulfing high up 50 feet above. Smoke was seen further high into the sky. Later came to know that the billowing black smoke was witnessed by people from far off regions 10 kilometers away.

My factory site has been equipped with fire hydrant system. It is a facility where pipe line runs around the manufacturing facility in which water is always maintained at high pressure. Tap points are available from which Fire-man hoses need to be fitted and lead to the incident area. The taps are then opened and water at high pressure is directed towards the fire accident point. This is very much similar to the ones used by Fire Rescue Personnel though pressure of the water will be bit higher in a hydrant line.

The usual grasp for every one of us on seeing a fire man quenching the fire is that of a similarity to spraying water in your little garden. But the fire man hose has water running at very high pressure and handling it is bit risky. If not handled properly, chances of getting a fatal head injury is imminent.

We people know on what to do in such emergency. Thanks to the mock drills which are conducted on routine basis. There were two fire hydrant tap points available near the incident area. A few months before this incident, I got the chance to be there involved as communication coordinator in that mock drill. I got little chance on how a fire hydrant facility would be used in case of emergency. Incidentally that mock drill that was conducted was just a few meters away from this accident spot. But this day, it’s a real experience.

There were two tap points on the hydrant facility available near the accident spot, one was engaged for fire fighting by some of the people working nearby who got the chance to rush first to the incident spot. Now, when we went there, the crowd is of good strength and another hydrant line was also engaged. So, now two water hoses had got to fight the fire.

The second line was being managed by one of the security officers. The hose line was not straight and had wrinkles, some of us tried to straightened it. This was the first ever time I got to touch the live fire hose. Since pressurized water is flowing through it, it was too heavy and not easy to handle. That was a mistake we did. While we were handling the hose, we actually were disturbing the hose and it’s a real endangerment for the person who is directing the high pressure water. A slip off his hand will make everyone around him even to the extent of their skull being fractured or ripped off by the exit point of the hose which is a heavy brass tip. The extent of the fire is so big, and it is too hard to control.

At this juncture the Fire department's brigade arrived at the spot.

The second hose which we were managing was actually running across the approach road and the brigade’s vehicle got stuck in the way to reach nearer to the accident spot. After some melee the second line was put off and vehicle made its movement to the point nearer to the incident. The fire engine had the facility to extend out two hoses. In the next few minutes water from their couple of hoses were in action. The fire is still at its big and only a bit of it was actually controlled.

Now four hoses are at disposal to fight the fire and of that 4 only 3 were actually used. Since two hoses were draining out water from the fire engine, one of the hydrant line was now used used to fill water in the water tank of the fire engine. So the water from this tank gets out through two hoses to extinguish and the water from the second hydrant line fills the tank.

Now a rhythm has got into play and three water pressure points (two from the fire brigade) and one of our own fire hydrant facility is in rhythm to fight the raging fire. At this point I was manning the hose running into the water tank of the fire engine. The handling of this hose is very hard and its risky to stand atop the van with few chances to catch hold for self support. Me and another person had put the hose point into the tank and pressurized water was filling the water tank. I was monitoring the water level in the fire brigade’s water tank. In a few minutes the water tank was full and overflowing. The water coming through the hose was from a distance 100 meters away. The person controlling the hydrant point has to be shown the hand sign to close the water point. And at the peak of crowd sourcing making the day, the message was passed and my hose line was closed. The person who was with me had left after a few minutes.

My boss who was standing besides the fire engine was enquiring me of the water level. In another ten minutes the water level in the tank got down by nearly two feet. Now the tank needed a fill up. Now, two persons were needed to handle since hose becomes alive and wriggles out at high pressure. So I called one person who was standing down on the road to come up to the top of the brigade’s fire engine. I think this was his first experience too.

Message was passed for the tap controller to open the water. He just opened it and water is all of a sudden reached with full pressure to me. It was hard to manage. The end of the hose which is fitted with brass just came wriggling out of the water tank. It just came off and swirled all around and the person assisting with me and myself could not control it. It soaked me of my clothes, my boss and others standing nearby. Luckily I downed myself and saved my head. Otherwise the unexpected would have happened. The hose flew off into the ground and then the controller at the hydrant point has closed the water. This risk happened due to the fact that the pressure in the hydrant line was higher than it was before and the person manning the tap point should have increased the volume in steps very slowly.

Lucky that no one was hurt apart from getting wet due to the water gushing on us.

Then afterward two more people assisted me and the fire-man hose was put back to the tank. A little learning from the incident, that now communication was given clearly and the water pressure was maintained as required and at a low pressure. A sigh of relief and the input water and the outgoing water is some what stabilized. A big relief and a wonderful learning.

It took almost an hour to put off the fire.

Luckily no one was hurt. But the black fumes from the burning rubber had given the front line fighters a cover of its black coat. Many of them had to take make much efforts in removing those stains.

Almost it was a battle of sorts fought with coordination by hundreds of young and energetic men from my tyre manufacturing fraternity. We had that enigma called the coordination which just got out from everybody at the first sight of the villain called the fire. A great experience which brought out the talents in the midst of risks and finally the bad villain called the fire was snuffed off. Not to be missed out is the monetary loss due to this accident.

A great life time experience only a few will get to learn. Though I pray that no body should get affected by a fire accident. But everybody should get to learn the art of fire fighting.

Although it was a good learning experience, it includes risk of taking off your life if you fail to adhere to the safe practice of handling the fire fighting equipments.

Thank God.