Fire Extinguishers in the News

Fire ExtinguishersFire extinguishers are so much part of our lives these days, it’s hardly headline-grabbing news when one is set off or used. However, even the humble fire extinguisher has had its moments of glory…

Formula One

To suffer one engine fire in your car is unfortunate, to have two… French Formula One driver Sebastien Bourdais managed to cross the chequered flag in 18th place in the Hungarian Grand prix, despite two flash fires during refuelling. It wasn’t the fires that slowed him down however, it was having to make a third pit stop to have fire extinguisher foam removed from the inside of his visor…

Think Before You Speak

Award for this year’s most inappropriate use of the phrase “Fire Extinguisher” must go to US press secretary Dana Perino. In May 2008, the White House announced that it would not sell crude oil from the US Strategic Petroleum Reserve to boost supply and lower prices. Perino described the oil reserve thus: “It’s like the fire extinguisher in case of an emergency.”

If they are putting out fires with oil in the US, Houston, they have a problem!

Olympic Torch

The world-wide progress of the 2008 Beijing Olympic torch procession was not the smooth-running exercise the Chinese organizers had hoped for. In London, over 35 people were arrested for trying to obstruct the torch procession.

After two men had tried to put out the torch with a fire extinguisher, the torch-protecting authorities decided that it was safer on a double-decker bus. A large naked flame, in a large metal ice-cream cone, on a London bus. Hmmm.

Fire Training Nigerian Style

A second electrical fire at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Nigeria in September 2008 shows the importance of fire safety maintenance – and training. When the office’s electrical control room burst into flames, according to the Nigerian newspaper “Business Today”, the civil defense corps allegedly, “Ran away from the scene instead of deploying the disaster management training they are reputed to have gained.”

Quick-thinking security staff grabbed the nearest fire extinguishers, only to discover they were empty. So, one guard ran to a nearby building and borrowed one of their extinguishers instead. It was almost an hour before a ‘rapid intervention’ fire truck arrived, finally putting out the fire.

Whilst praising those quick-acting security staff, Minister of Foreign Affairs Chief Ojo Maduekwe was generally not amused; “The response to the incident was reasonably above average and there can still be improvement.”

Absolutely, Minister!

And Finally…

A German anti-smoker was so annoyed when his girlfriend lit up a cigarette in his flat, that he set off a fire extinguisher to extinguish it. The resulting powder covered her, him and most of the flat by the time the police arrived to the flat, in the town of Bielefeld.

With due concern for fire safety, a police spokesman explained how “It looked like a bomb had gone off in there… He managed to put the cigarette out though.” The anti-smoker is now single, again.

Fire Extinguisher Training: if at first you don’t succeed

Fire Extinguisher TrainingIt takes a particularly patience US Fire Chief to be called out to the same location eight times since May 2008, and state that “Every time we go out, we can learn from that. Each time is a training experience.”

Fire Chief Mike Kobel’s patch is the Eastern Prairie district of Champaign, Illinois, and his particular bétè noir is a disused grain elevator, just across the street from his fire station.

The old grain elevator and the silos are being reclaimed by crews of contractors, and this process is when Chief Kobel’s problems started. Kobel was quoted in the local News Gazette, explaining that when the crews use cutting torches to remove parts, the flames ignite remnants of grain, their oils, and grain dusts, resulting in the smoldering fires.

Kobel is also resigned to the particular problems of fires involving dried organic produce: “Last week, we put several hundred gallons on one area. We knocked it down and the smoke quit. Rest assured, when you’re dealing with a pile of grain, it’s going to start smoking again.”

Site owner Chris Knipfer told the newspaper that he often doesn’t even know about fires at the grain elevator until the fire engine arrives, as the alarm has been raised by drivers on the nearby interstate highway, spotting smoke.

Chief Kobel is certainly using the grain elevator fires as an excellent source of training for his volunteer force of firefighters – and the contractors. He has instructed all contractors on site to put out smaller fires using fire extinguishers, whilst his crew make the most of each incident as training for a potentially major emergency.

For example, when their fire truck was called to a recent incident at the grain silos, the firefighters decided to check if their ladder would be long enough to reach the top of the silo if a fire broke out there. It wasn’t. So, if your company exports 140 foot long fire ladders to the US, you know who to call.