My engine room fire was on a quad screw crewboat in the Gulf. We had lost
the fuel pump
on #2 engine and had run a jumper fuel
line from #4 over to it so we could keep operating offshore
(yeah, I know, dumb idea....)
The jumper developed a leak right at the #2 engine turbo and was spraying fuel everywhere, but as long as we where hooked up the fuel spray was being sucked into the turbo - and no problem.
Eventually a deck
hand spotted the problem and reported it to the other Captain
. He pulled all the engines back to idle and went to the engineroom to check it out. Once the engines were pulled back, the diesel
fuel spray hit the hot turbo instead of being sucked into it, and the whole think ignited into a gaint ball of fire.
I was off watch and asleep (I was the 2nd Captain) and heard all the commotion and got up. I entered the engineroom - which was now abandoned and on fire - in just my underwear. I grabbed the 15-lb CO2 fire extinguisher that had just been serviced by a USCG approved vendor to attack the fire, but the extinguisher was EMPTY.
I couldn't get past the fire to reach the shut-offs at the back of the engineroom, and the ones on the bridge never worked (remember this was an oil
field crewboat in the Gulf in the early 90's!)
Smoke was now down to waist height, so I left and organized a fire party. I had 1 guy go on deck
to open the emergency
to vent out the smoke and to bring down the deck washdown hose, and had the second guy go and get the two 20-lb Purple K extinguishers from passenger compartment.
I finally put on some clothing
and re-entered the engineroom just as the escape hatch
was opened. All the smoke exited so I could now fully see and breath. I found another CO2 extinguisher and knocked the fire down with it, but it kept re-igniting - so I started using the wash down hose. That cooled the turbo enough and extinguished the burning overhead material so that diesel
fuel didn't immediately re-ignite. I was able to get past the fire area and shut down the 2 engines involved in the fire, which stopped fuel from being sprayed everywhere.
Eventually the wash down hose and the CO2 extinguisher fully extinguished the remaining burning diesel fuel. I never did use the PK dry chems.
As with any fire on a boat, eventually you need to use water
, so make sure you have a wash down hose or a bucket for that purpose.
And many thanks to my Fire fighting instructors at Texas
A&M for giving me the hands-on training to be able to deal with this type of a fire!