This winter the crew of the SSS Odyssey found their way up to Fremont Maritime Services on a rainy Saturday morning with eager hopes of participating in the first day of two India Tango shipboard firefighting and safety training sessions. The first day dozens of excited Sea Scouts and adult skippers from Port, Starboard and Topmen Crews spent the morning in class receiving training on shipboard firefighting. The crew was introduced to a professional grade fire science course material. The crew learned not just about the equipment used to fight fires but how firefighting on a ship varies from land based fire safety. After lunch the excitement was ratcheted up a few notches when the scouts and skippers moved from the classroom to the simulator area and donned firefighting bunker gear.
There were so many scouts standing in the covered outdoor training muster area at the Fremont Maritime India Tango training center that it was soon apparent that there was not enough room in the changing room for everyone to suit up at once. The mounting excitement was palpable as scouts and skippers waited patiently watching as groups of sea scouts walked into a large storage container on one end and emerged from the other looking like firefighters wearing full firefighting bunker gear. There were audible gasps from those waiting as the first Sea Scouts stepped out of the changing room wearing their bunker gear. The transformation from Sea Scout to shipboard firefighter was just beginning.
After suiting up and admiring each other for a few minutes they were separated into two groups. The newly formed fire teams walked through the rain toward a massive shipboard fire simulator, the bow of the simulator sports a massive fire breathing dragon. The simulator itself resembles the top of a large commercial vessel that has somehow been sunk into the concrete; the structure itself has been rigged with propane gas lines terminating in designated areas designed that flame up to brilliant effect. Walking past the walls and hallways of the simulator sooty from endless hours of fire training, it is easy to imagine the intensity soon to come for the scouts and skippers.
The first stage of the fire simulator was an exploration of hand held fire extinguishers. The fire instructor spent a few minutes demonstrating how to operate the Type K wet foam extinguisher and then called for two volunteers. As the volunteer walked up the instructor picked up a gallon container of Coleman white gas and poured it into an industrial looking concrete tub with various pipes water rising out of standing water. A murmur of anticipation began to flow through the crowd as the instructor struck a hand held flare and tossed it into the fuel water mixture. The crews gasped as the fuel ignited and the instructor called the extinguisher wielding volunteers forward. They activated their extinguishers and bounced the wet chemical agent off the back of the wall as trained and let the agent spread over the water fuel mixture cutting the flame off from its source of oxygen and cooling the fuel below the flame point.
The next evolution of shipboard fire training utilized the propane fire simulator, the fire crew walked through the ship towards an engine room where they found a large fire spewing violently from below what appeared to be an electrical engine. The crew advanced towards the fire under direct supervision of the watchful instructor holding CO2 fire extinguishers. The crew was instructed to get low and extinguish the base of the fire. Both groups worked through this evolution and found out what it was like to extinguish a fire with CO2 extinguishers.
The final evolutions of the day had the Sea Scout crews handling fully charged 2 ½ inch fire hoses. The crews worked their way to the top of the superstructure and were taught the basics of how to hold and advance towards a live shipboard fire. Half of the crew worked on an evolution designed to simulate internal fires and the other half worked on extinguishing external fires with their fire hoses. The crews rotated through both evolutions with each Sea Scout taking a turn at working the nozzle.
By the end of the day the crews had worked through multiple evolutions and looked exhausted. Watching the Scouts return their gear and walk to their waiting cars it was easy to see a little swagger in their step. They had each worked hard and earned a bit of pride for having succeeding at something that few adults would ever attempt. The Sea Scouts of the SSS Odyssey are posed and eagerly awaiting the second day of India Tango training!