Webb Fire Fighting School
On Saturday, September 11, 2010 Professor John Hennings escorted the Sophomore Class to the Military Sealift Command Fire fighting School located on the Navy’s Earle Weapons Station in Freehold, New Jersey, as part of their preparation for the up-coming winter work term. The training that the Webb students receive at the school is modeled on the Basic Fire Fighting course that is given to Kings Point Midshipmen before they go to sea for their cadet under-way training.
The group left Webb in two vans and arrived at the fire school at about 0930. After some classroom training, consisting of videos and lectures, it was time for the “hands-on” portion of the program. The Webbies learned the proper method for donning a complete fire fighter’s ensemble, including fire-resistant pants, jacket, boots, flash-hood and gloves (and including a pair of red suspenders). They also learned how to don and use the self-contained high-pressure air pack that is commonly used aboard both Naval and commercial ships. This “dressing-out” period was followed by some hands-on fire hose handling, including the use of a vari-nozzle and control of a runaway or wild hose.
All of this leads up to the most exciting part of the day: the engine room fire. During this evolution two hose teams with two firefighters per hose enter the mock-up of a ship’s engine room that is fully engulfed in hot, roiling, bright orange flames. The engine room at this time is a boiling cauldron of smoke, flame and searing heat. None the less, the Webbies in their fire fighter’s outfits and armed with charged fire hoses, their newly acquired training and a good deal of courage ( and maybe just a bit of trepidation ) enter the burning space and fight the fire until all flames are fully extinguished.
After a brief but much appreciated as well as deserved rest, it is on to an open tank fire, which is extinguished with a low concentrate fire fighting foam. Then finally, each student each puts out a grease fire with the ubiquitous CO-2 extinguisher recognizable to most by its bright red cylinder.
This training along with a series of lectures and video tapes presented to the students by Professor Matthew Werner at Webb is meant to give the students an awareness of the hazards and dangers that they might face in their time at sea. It also instills in them a sense of confidence that with proper training and equipment, a well trained crew aboard a well designed and equipped ship can overcome the dangers of life at sea.