Class Alpha Fire is Out

Every single casualty is recorded. Not with video and not with an iPad. All casualties are recorded with pen and paper. They are transcribed on a blank message form. From start to finish a casualty is recorded step by step. These are used in larger casualties as an official record and they are even used in an official investigation. Every message blank that was written out would be collected and turned over so that the casualty can be tracked in the way the situation was handled. In this case the class alpha fire was caused by rags touching an exposed steam pipe. The investigators that reviewed the fire determined that the protective screen that was preventing the rags from coming in contact with the steam pipe had a section cut out so that more bales of rags could be stored behind the protective enclosure.

This fire took time to extinguish. If you’ve ever tried to put out a camp fire just pouring water on it will not put it out. It will continue to burn until all of the embers are put out. Continue reading

Multiple fire parties.

After the berthing fire was extinguished a command decision was made to stop flooding out the space and attack the fire directly. Remember the fire triangle? A fire needs three components to actually have a fire, heat, fuel, and oxygen. Since the bales of rags were being taken out more oxygen was entering the space causing several different fires in the same space. This increased the heat of the space which forced the firefighters to exit the space earlier than expected.

Those in the upper chain of command held a meeting to discuss the best method to attack this fire and the end result was, multiple fire parties. The nozzle men would be the experienced firefighters.

Along with the thermal imager, we also received firefighting ensembles. It was a one piece coverall. The only problem was we only received a few and with the multiple hose teams we would have to trade out the coverall as the hose teams were relieved.

When the hose teams entered a space for a fire, they would have to crawl on their hands and knees.

When the rags were pulled out a small crawl space was created to different locations inside the space. Since the steam pipe that caused the fire was located along the back of the space, it was assumed that is where the fire start point was, in actuality, it was in several locations inside the same space.

One of the first hose teams in the space was my friend Mike and his brother. Mike was older than his brother. Before Mike arrived on the ship, his brother had told me all about him and when he would be arriving on the ship.

When he got there the fireworks began! They were both loud, very loud! From what I saw they loved each other in a brotherly way. His brother wanted him to succeed and with that came the arguments and advice. It was all in love, but boy did it escalate sometimes.

They were on a hose team together and this is where they excelled! They entered the space and were in for about 5 – 8 minutes. As the exited the space, they were exhausted. The heat in the space was incredible! After every hose team went in they gave a report on where they had spotted a fire.

They also reported that the fire had flashed over on them. This was a big problem. The concern with this was that once the fire had been extinguished it would flash over and reignite because the rags excessive heat. The water wasn’t saturating the bales and the heat was causing them to reignite all at once.

After a few more hose teams entered and exited it was my turn on a hose team.

“Tessler, you’re the nozzle man. What? Why am I going to be the nozzleman? My heart started to race. I was excited and scared all at once. It also made me feel that my hard work was being noticed. I had a goal to be a nozzleman on the flying squad and helping with this fire was one step closer to achieving this.
As we lined up to enter the space everyone in my fire party was trying to pump me up. We all set our timers for five minutes. We were all lined up and started to climb the vertical ladder to the space and entered the space.

On our hands and knees we crawled. Smoke was everywhere. Heavy white smoke blocked our view. I had to control my breathing. I kept reminding myself to breathe shallow breathes. Keep my hand on the hose and follow it into the space.

The hose team before us left the space due to the extreme heat, they had to evacuate and left the hose in place.

When we got to the back of the space my team leader and I could stand up. I had to climb a short ladder and look back to the front of the space. I could not see anything. I asked the team leader for the NFTI. He raised it to my eyes and I could see that the fire was directly above the door that we had entered in.

I opened the nozzle and water began to surge out of it. As I looked through the NFTI the steam made the screen white out. I kept spraying water and as I did the screen got darker and darker. This meant that the fire was going out! After it was out I continued to spray more and more water so that the fire wouldn’t reignite.

This was one of the larger fires in the space. It was now out and from all of the signs it wasn’t reigniting.

Our timers started to ring and we crawled out the way we crawled in. Once we were out we were exhausted but excited that we were able to extinguish one of the largest fires that we had seen on this deployment.

Next week: Class Alpha fire is out.

General Quarters! General Quarters!

Watching the bales of rags burst into flames was a sight to see. To have an actual fire you need three things, heat, fuel, and oxygen. To remember this we explained it as the fire triangle. Since the bales were so tightly packed into that space the two components of heat and fuel only made the rags smolder and create smoke. Once the bales were taken out of the space and exposed to the oxygen it caused them to burst into flames. This was a new experience for me since I was new to firefighting but Mike had seen this while working in New York. When we reported to the Repair locker to give an initial report we were told that the Damage control officer had ordered the space flooded out.

This space was large! Over 500 sq. feet it would take a long time to completely flood this entire space. When we walked toward the On Scene Leader to receive additional orders we were told to investigate the upper boundaries. This boundary was the most critical since heat was always rising. The only place that the smoke had to vent was through the small door that led to the space.

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There’s always a reason for something. On that early morning there was a reason that DC Division mustered in the hanger bay. We would always muster right in front of Repair Locker 1 Bravo. Repair Lockers were like mini fire stations. Depending on the size of the repair locker determined how much equipment was inside of them. This was an average sized repair locker. My friend George took care of this locker. George was my roommate when we were back in port. He was from New York and always wanted to work in the city as a fire fighter when he got out of the Navy. He was also a volunteer fireman before he came in the Navy and he knew how to take care of firefighting equipment.

Morning quarters was nearly over when those familiar bells started ringing.

Ring ring ring ring ring!! Ring ring. Those last two distinct rings determined what part of the ship in relation to forward and aft that the casualty was located. When we heard two bells we knew we’d be responding very close.

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Smoke! Smoke! Smoke!

Before any underway period the ship must replenish many items. Everything from food to fuel. The ship at any given underway time could be called to do anything from rescuing another vessel to going to any situation overseas. The ship must always be prepared. On this particular in port period I was trying to get familiar with the ship. I knew some of the spaces but didn’t know all of them. When I wasn’t busy I’d would just roam and search random spaces. I was always looking at where the nearest fire station was in relation to the space.

A fire station on a ship has at least 200 feet of hose, nozzles and that’s all connected to a fire plug valve. As you can imagine there were many of these fire stations on a ship.

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