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Yacht crew receive lots of training they hope they will never use. Four crew recently tested a set of those skills during a stay at Mary’s Crew House in Ft. Lauderdale. It was late at night and most of the crew in the apartment-style house were asleep on Oct. 29 when a fire started at the house next door.
“I could see the light from the window about 30 feet away,” Deckhand Colt Jennings, 32, said. “My roommate was snoring but I could hear the roar, you know that sound that fire makes.”
“It sounded like a hot air balloon,” Eng. Howard Hudson, 52, said.
Hudson woke Deckhand Adam Myers, 23, who started waking crew in other rooms. They ran next door to wake the neighbors of the burning house while someone called 911 for help. The fence around the property was locked and the fire was in the back.
“I knocked down the gate and pounded on their door,” Hudson said. “I was very persistent. It had set the barbecue tanks on fire.”
Eng. Francesco Arienti, 25, joined in as the men began to get water hoses from the crew house to put out the fire.
Fortunately, Jennings knew right where the two hoses were because he recently wanted to wash his car. They were moving quickly as they naturally began to work together.
“I was in the backyard and passed the hose to Adam, then I took another one with the nozzle,” Arienti said.
“It was melting the vinyl siding on the house and it started a fire in a tire in their yard,” Hudson said.
Even though the four had not taken classes nor worked together, they helped each other to get water over the fence. No one got hurt and the fire was put out.
“We got it out just as it was going into the rafters,” Hudson said.
Each crew had taken firefighting as part of the International Convention on Standards of Training, Certification and Watchkeeping for Seafarers (STCW) training. Jennings had the class in August and Arienti recently took it at Bluewater. Hudson has had advanced training as a Royal New Zealand Air Force veteran.
Sitting in the yard of the crew house near the charred home next door after the fire, the men thought about what they learned.
“It’s so much different than training,” Hudson said. “During training things are prepped and you know the fire’s going to start. You know where things are. In real life, it’s very different.”
“It’s not like we had protective gear, we were all in t-shirts and shorts,” Jennings said. “But no one panicked and we used teamwork. We had two people on the hoses and two on the nozzles.
“Was it perfect? Probably not,” he said. “Did it work? Yes.”
“A lot of what we did was common sense,” Arienti said. “It was my first fire but maybe I feel a little more confident.”
Some crew at the house said the men could have left the firefighting to the fire department.
“If we had, it would have become much worse,” Hudson said.
The men downplayed their part in the incident but said the real-world application definitely reinforced their classroom training.
“On the yacht, we probably would catch it much quicker,” Myers said. “It was absolutely a good thing I had training.”
Myers said he learned he needs to react more quickly.
“I think the main thing is you have to keep calm.”
Dorie Cox is editor of The Triton. Comments on this story are welcome at firstname.lastname@example.org.