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All options welcome to combat fires onboard

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Fires on yachts are dangerous, costly and messy, and this keeps the firefighting industry innovating new technology. As an introduction to both high- and low-tech options, captains and first officers attended demonstrations at Roscioli Yachting Center in Ft. Lauderdale in late May.

One of the captains in attendance said he is open to all options because the possibility of fire onboard is always present. The captain, who requested his name be withheld, said in the past he had three onboard fires in three weeks with three different stews.

Carl Lessard of AIG in Ft. Lauderdale, which co-hosted the event, said he researches new products and systems as a yacht loss prevention specialist.

“Fire is the least frequent, yet the most severe, if you look at the claims,” Lessard said.

At the higher end of technology, Training Manager Thomas Jones of Resolve Marine Group in Ft. Lauderdale, recommended yachts have infra-red technology for finding fire sources and for finding people onboard. A Bullard representative demonstrated how a hand-held thermal imager translates energy waves into an image to show heat. Locations of heat can be seen through walls and smoke to isolate hot wires or other fire sources. The technology does not work through water.

“Thermal imagers are important because the majority of fires on yachts occur in void spaces,” Lessard said. Fires in entertainment centers, overhead liners, closets, cabinets and space behind walls acts like a chimney for fire, he said.

“And where do you stash your stuff onboard?” Jones asked the group.

“In the void spaces,” was the response from the group.

PyroLance is another tool at the high-end of technology. A handheld gun directs granite abrasive using an ultra-high pressure stream of water to create a 3mm hole by which vaporized water is injected. During the demonstrations, the PyroLance cut through 1/4-inch plate of steel and three panels of a cinder block in less than a minute.

“This is a good option because most crew hesitate to take an ax to the owners cabin when they see smoke, but not fire,” Lessard said.

At the low-tech end of firefighting tools, a piercing nozzle was demonstrated by MES (Municipal Emergency Services). The metal rod is hammered to pierce a hole to reach void spaces and comes with several pieces that can be configured for outdoor to tighter internal spaces. One person can use the Task Force Tips (TFT) with the back side of an ax to puncture metal or wood. A water source can be connected to the nozzle at the end of the rod to extinguish the fire through the pierced hole.

MES also demonstrated the ProPak, a self-contained compact foam unit that can be used for small or smouldering fires.

Lessard said that their recommendations in technology are based on lessons learned on yachts in the past few years. He said none of the products are intended to replace existing systems onboard yachts, but are additional options for specific uses.

In other technology news, Joey Cudmore of Fireade recently demonstrated the Fireade 2000, a water-based fire-fighting system, to several professionals in the yachting industry at The Triton office.

The compressed air foam system is made from a food-grade material that leaves no residue and dries within minutes. The product comes in a can or with a compressor system.

Many fire suppression systems attempt to eliminate oxygen, but Fireade eliminates the heat, Cudmore said. He demonstrated by spraying the foam on a towel and holding a lit blowtorch to the towel in his hand with no burning.

The chemicals used in a boat fire may extinguish the fire, but leave a huge mess; but Fireade is mostly water so it evaporates and leaves no residue, he said.

“We’re not telling you to replace your fire suppression system,” Cudmore said. “We’re saying use ours as a secondary system that you turn to first.”

Cudmore said Fireade has been making fire-fighting products for 30 years and that their technology is in use at 4,000 fire stations. The company originally introduced the product to auto racing and is now expanding to yachts and marinas.

 

Dorie Cox is associate editor of The Triton. Comments on this story are welcome at dorie@the-triton.com.

 

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