Thursday, July 13, 2006

More tails from the fire front

Another fatal accident I attended involved a petrol tanker. The driver got too close to the gravel verge and lost control. In doind so he bumped into the car in front of him causing it to slide sideways into an oncoming which was towing a horse float.

The unfortunate vehicle involved in the head on had some teenage girls in it and at least one of them was killed outright. I remember seeing her still trapped in the car frozen in her last moment of action. She must have seen the car coming straight for her as there was a look of horror on what was left of her face as her life was violently forced out of her.

Motor vehicle accidents were always emotionally draining but structual fires took the cake when it came to phyical endurance.

Being a rural service town we often got called out to Hay barn fires, which were always long and arduous events. A farmer would put his hay bales in the hay shed too early and the decomposing grass woudl give off enough heat to cause spontaneous combustion.

Once the blaze had been extinguished, each heavy sodden hay bail had to be individually pulled out and hosed down. The hay was always ruined, as the animals wouldn’t go near it, probably because it smelled smoky. Not only would the farmer loose his shed and any machinery inside he would also loose his winter feed.

It was also a challenge finding water for country fires. In towns and cities the water main provided easy supply via fire hydrants, but rural addresses were a different story. Each Fire Engine carried portable pumps that could suck water out of creeks, tanks, rivers, lakes or wherever we could find it.

An unusual incident that I attended involved a leaking acid chemical tank at a Dairy factory.

A faulty valve allowed concentrated acid to flow unconctrollably into the confines of a small brick wall which surrounded the tank.

A Technical Liaison Officer (industrial chemist) attended as an advisor who thought it would be best to dilute the acid with water to a safe level then remove it.

Now in theory this seemed like a reasonable resolution, so we set about hosing down the toxic solution with copious amounts of water. Unfortunately we soon discovered that diluting this quantity of acid with water caused an exothermic reaction to occur that heated up the container rapidly to boiling point. One moment we were happily hosing this thing down and the next thing it started vibrating with the heat, threatening to explode and shower us all with acid.

There were some very tense moments as we waited for the worst to happen. Fortunately the heat dissipated and we continued to dilute it, albeit at a slower pace.

1 comment:

Stacey said...

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