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Master Stream on a Bus Fire? You be the Judge!

http://statter911.com/2010/08/21/master-streams-used-to-control-bus-fire-pictures-from-anne-arundel-county-md/

The above video has been getting a lot of play on various fire service websites, and even more debate on the “tactics” used to bring the incident under control.

The video shows you a bus on fire, but it’s not just any bus its a bus that utilizes CNG (Compressed Natural Gas). It is utilized as a fossil fuel substitute, that utilized the current combustion engine to provide fuel to the motor. It usually requires a greater storage area for the fuel because they are actually fuel cylinders instead of a fuel tank. to learn more about CNG go here:

http://www.beg.utexas.edu/energyecon/documents/community_benefits/Risk/j.1539-6924.2005.00596.pdf

http://altecheco.com/pages/Safety.htm

www.seattle.gov/fire/publications/cng/CNGAutoFire.ppt

Now I am no expert on this stuff, as I have only read about it and never encountered it in my fire service operations. What I do know is that anytime you are dealing with a compressed gas cylinder no matter what the kind its dangerous. It has the potential to leak, shoot like a rocket if it falls and breaks especially at the neck (this happened in high school and a full-sized O2 tank put a hole in a cinder block wall), and has the chance to BLEVE. I know what your thinking this is not a compressed liquid hence the name BLEVE (Boiling Liquid Expanding Vapor Explosion) but even in compressed gas cylinders BLEVE is a real concern like what happend here:

http://www.cleanmpg.com/forums/general/t-cng-honda-civic-car-fireexplosion-dialup-warning-many-photos-7555.html

As you can see these things are a real danger, and take extreme caution when operating around, especially when they are on fire.

So back to the video, this company seemed to notice the fuel tank, or the fuel venting aggressively. Either way they recognized it and deployed a master stream (pre piped deck gun) in order to maintain a safe distance, put the fire out, and protect exposures all at the same time. They then ran out of water for about 5 minutes. Then some other companies come (10 in all I think) and they eventually even set up a ladder pipe to finish it off. These tactics are getting debated, criticized, and praised on several fire service forum, and blog sites. So instead of posting some obligatory anonymous post I am going to put what I think about it right here.

 I think the deck gun was a good idea. Lots of fire, lots of exposures, and the dangers of a BLEVE make this a good tactic in my book. What I really have a problem with is the execution and lack of planning. The stream goes over the bus and they lose half their water. Maybe that was by design to protect exposures, but more likely it was due to inexperience with deck gun operations, and the lack of an officer constantly assessing his scene in order to check the effectiveness of the stream. On our engines we have the extend a gun feature which allows us to raise our guns up to about chest level. This coupled with storing your tip below the elevation lock making the stack tips horizontal allows us to shoot straight at something instead of arching over it.

The water supply seemed also to be lacking. I do not know where the hydrants where, or when they called for more companies but even if it’s the most insignificant call we have to plan for water supply. Fire alarms, brush fires, smell of smoke, car fire, you name it you have to plan for water. You’re the engine company its your job. This need for water planning is multiplied when you start to utilize large GPM streams. Do not take water for granted, and be self-sufficient with your water supply.

10 companies, and a ladder pipe? Not knowing all the circumstances I am trying not to judge, but initially it does seem like overkill. People often fear what they do not understand however. I can remember several times in my fire service career trying something “new” in front of older fireman and then nay saying it from the outset. So my only advice here is to try to keep an open mind, however do not do anything unsafe, and always have a back up plan.

Lastly it seems a lot of people feel this tactic lacked aggressiveness. I disagree completely. Aggressiveness is not related to you geographic location to the fire, it is about what you are DOING, not were your standing. Sitting next to a fully involved house with a booster line while close to the fire is not aggressive its just dumb. This tactic was at the height of aggressiveness, it just lacked some preparation, and planning which are training issues.

I want to know what you think? Overkill, Aggressive, or something else. Leave some feedback in the comments section and as usual spread the word about the blog!

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