Dwight Williams made sure everyone working a large-volume monitor or pump during the record setting Big Gun Shootout in Baton Rouge knew the hands signals he would use to direct the exercise. Ordinarily, hearing instructions over the sound of a single 6,000 gallon per minute pump revved to full capacity is difficult enough.
Bringing your palm down flat on top of your head means "hammer down" -- the pump throttle is wide open. However, Williams told the waiting crew, the most important signal is if he brings two fingers up to his eyes.
"It means 'you watch me,'" he said. "The reason we do that is somebody is not paying attention. Have one person operating your pump, but the guy that's telling the pump operator what to do is supposed to be watching me."
If one pump is that noisy, image five 6,000 gpm pumps, plus an extra 4,000 gpm unit, feeding four giantic Williams Fire & Hazard Control monitors, better known as Big Guns. The object is to break the existing world record of 29,567 gpm, the most water flowed in a single fire exercise.
As the five big pumps rev up to a sustained pressure of 110 pounds per square inch, a man-made blizzard arcs through the sky above the Louisiana State University's Fire & Emergency Training Institute. Eighty foot tall at its apex, the foam and water carries a distance of 476 feet before falling into the fire water tank providing the water.
A 300-foot diameter tank measures 70,650 square feet. The pond, measuring 80,000 square feet, is covered in 92 seconds.
Once the water and foam is shut off, firefighters begin pulling calculators out of their pockets. Soon, the new record for flow achieved is announced -- 30,966 gpm.
"We flowed more water than I've ever seen shot out of a series of guns ever," Williams said. He is president Williams F&HC.
Conducted in conjunction with the 21st annual Industrial Fire World Conference & Exposition, the Big Gun Shootout is a full-scale demonstration of what modern industrial firefighters can accomplish when a worst case scenario becomes worst case reality. It serves to test the output of heavy-caliber fire fighting monitors designed by Williams Fire & Hazard Control and widely used throughout the world.
"Nobody that I know with the exception of the Louisiana Hired Gun Gang has the capability of doing what we saw here today," Williams said.
Louisiana was the home state to the last Shootout, held in October 1997 at the St. James Boat Club on the Blind River between New Orleans and Baton Rouge. The 29, 567 gpm flow achieved beat the previous record of 22,000 gallons set in Texas in 1994.
From orbit the scene at FETI during set up for the more recent Big Gun Shootout must have looked like ants trying to weave a basket using thick yellow spaghetti. That spaghetti, actually large-volume fire hose, measured five inches in diameter with almost 13,000 feet of it on the ground next to FETI's fire water pond. As for the ants, 16 plants and refineries belonging to the Louisiana Emergency Response Supply Network, better known as the Louisiana Hired Gun Gang, provided 45 firefighters and other personnel. Set up took only four hours.
According to Jerry Craft, lead firefighter with Williams F&HC for training and consulting, the Louisiana Hired Gun Gang goes beyond the typical industrial mutual aid organization.
"We basically cover everything from the Texas border all the way into Mississippi," Craft said. "It has been in existence since 1987 and has gone to more than a dozen significant events such as big fires or sunken roofs. We meet twice a year to discuss current events and modern technology. Then we have an exercise like this."
A comparison of the 2006 Shootout and the 1997 Shootout gives an impressive insight into how much the art of industrial fire fighting has improved in just nine short years. The 2006 Shootout involved four monitors -- the 14,000 gpm maximum Big Foot, the 10,000 gpm maximum Battler, the 6,000 gpm maximum Ambassador and the 3,000 gpm maximum Ranger 3. To set the new record, the Big Foot and the Battler each flowed 10,488 gpm, with 6,293 gpm from the Ambassador and 3,000 gpm from the Ranger 3.
In 1997, the Hired Gun Gang used two Big Foot monitors, a 6,000 gpm maximum Six Gun and one 2,000 gpm Hydro-Chem. To reach 29,567 gpm, the firefighters flowed 12,000 and 10,000 gallons per minute through the two Big Foot nozzles, respectively. Added to this was 2,000 gpm flowed through the Hydro-Chem and 5,567 flowed through the Six-Gun.
The latest Shootout used five 6,000 gpm transportable pumps and one 4,000 gpm unit. The Hired Gun Gang laid 12,250 feet of 5-inch hose, 500 feet of 3-inch hose and 200 feet of 1? -inch hose. The smaller diameter hose was used to move foam concentrate to the monitors. By comparison, the 1997 Shootout used 12 pumps, the largest of which was rated at 6,000 gpm. A 9,000-foot network of 5-inch hose fed water to the monitors.
At LSU, the farthest monitor from the center of the Footprint, the initial area cleared of flame by the foam application, was 476 feet away. The Footprint is Williams F&HC's patented methodology combining application rate, massed stream/application density, foam run and technique of application. The distance a foam blanket has to travel across burning fuel and the amount of foam required for post extinguishment vapor suppression are important variables to consider.
In 1997, the monitors used covered a distance of 275-to-400 feet.
Companies participating in the 2006 Shootout included Chevron Texaco in Pascagoula, MS, Citgo Petroleum in Lake Charles, LA, ConocoPhillips in Lake Charles, ConocoPhillips in Belle Chase, LA, Cytec Industries in Westwego, LA, Dow Chemicals in Hanhville, LA, Dow Chemicals in Plaquemine, LA; ExxonMobil in Baton Rouge, ExxonMobil in Chalmette, LA, Motiva Enterprise in Convent, LA, Industrial Emergency Services in Gonzales, LA, LOOP in Cutoff, LA, Murphy Oil in Meraux, LA, Shell Motive in Norco, LA and Valero in Norco.
Preceding the March Shootout demonstration were workshops on Williams F&HC monitors conducted by Williams, Craft, Chauncey Naylor and Greg Galliano, fire chief for LOOP refinery in Cutoff. The discussion split into two major considerations -- logistics and operations.
Logistics can break an army's back, even an army of firefighters, Williams said. Foam, water, hose, equipment and manpower are needed in large quantities and in a hurry. This should be addressed in pre-planning your facility.
What method of handling foam is to your best advantage? A float that carries 80 drums can normally carry as many as 20 foam totes, Williams said. By contrast, an average tanker can hold from 6,000 to 8,000 gallons of foam concentrate. You have to look at what capabilities you have, he said.
"If all you've got is a 3,000 gallon tanker and you turn it into one percent foam, it's just like a 9,000 gallon tanker," Williams said. "You get to decide -- do I want one of these or three of those? How much room do you have on your dike wall? What's the logistical advantage?"
Concentrate percentage is another important factor to consider. Battling a 200-foot storage tank fire will require 12,286 gallons of concentrate at three percent. That translates to two 6,000 gallon bulk tankers, 47 265-gallon totes, 224 55-gallon drums or 2,457 5-gallon pails. By comparison, a one percent concentration requires only 4,095 gallons of concentrate, slightly more than 1?-tankers, 16 totes, 75 drums or 819 pails.
The logistics of proportioning is one of the biggest secrets of the fire fighting business, Williams said. How do you get the foam into the streams?
"One way is to use a fire truck," Williams said. "How many fire trucks do you need to handle one of these big monitors? Several. Or you can take a big pump and lay it out using what we call a jet ratio controller (JRC).. If you look at an Ambassador 1 x 6 flowing 6,000 gpm you'll find that at three percent you need 180 gallons using three 2-inch jets. The distance you can be from the gun pulling that much foam is 287 feet with 3-inch hose. However, if you choose to use one percent and three JT24s, which are 1?-inch you can be 3,552 feet away."
Although 3,552 feet away is much better than 287 feet, there is no need to be further than three tank diameters away for safety, he said.
To determine application density, divide the square feet involved into the gallons of flow. For example, a 200-foot storage tank requires a flow of 6,000 gpm divided by 31,400 feet squared, which equals an actual application density of .19.
A new training foam from Williams F&HC and Ansul called T-Storm was used for the Shootout demonstration, said Craft.
"It does not contain any fluorinated hydrocarbons and does not have the problem of PFOS that has been persistent in some the earlier commercial foams," Craft said. "It is environmentally safe."
Foam is almost always the last essential ingredient to arrive on scene, Galliano said.
"Not even companies big enough to belong to the Hired Gun Gang are big enough to have all the foam they might need," Galliano said. "So it has to come from different locations."
Staging this large quantity of foam is entrusted to a foam logistics coordinator, Galliano said. However, transpiring events on the fire ground can limit your options in finding a temporary home for this supply. Galliano illustrated this using the 2001 Orion fire in a flooded refinery near New Orleans.
"You can see our LOOP foam tender here," Galliano said. "On the right you can see some totes with Lightwater written on them. But look behind them -- there are spheres and bullet tanks that contain propane. We were trying to figure out where to place these foam tankers and could only come up with this area. Sometimes it's not the best choice but the only choice."
For industrial fire operations, experts recommended that the foam logistics officer have authority equal to other key officers in the incident command system.
For the 1997 Shootout on the Blind River, water was virtually unlimited. Likewise, at the 2001 Orion fire water was plentiful, provided by nearby storage ponds. At his refinery in Cutoff, LA, fire water is drawn from a drainage canal. Ideally, water can be drawn from an underground fire water system using large mains and specially designed industrial manifolds with 6-inch connections, not the standard barrel hydrants found on street corners.
Handling the water is different in every situation, Galliano said.
Ideally, pumps should be staged as close to the water as possible. But what if there has been a recent heavy rain. Equipment such as bulldozers and cranes may be necessary to move the heavy pumps into place, Galliano said.
"You must also remember that whenever a pond or canal is used you may have problems with duck weed or some kind of hyacinth that can be sucked up," Galliano said. "You need to clean these areas by spraying them with some type of environmentally friendly weed killer."
Floating strainers can be used to protect against picking up trash off the bottom, Galliano said. A variation of this is to use buckets to keep strainer devices on the end of the hose off the bottom.
Ideally, the pumps should be kept very close to each other, Galliano said. Also, they should be kept level for greatest efficiency. Heavy timbers might be one option as a level foundation for the transportable pumps.
When it comes to storage tank fire fighting any excess water available should be applied to cooling exposures, not directly to the fire, Williams said. The main focus should be on producing foam.
"Turn all the water you can into foam and overwhelm it," Williams said. "Get your react lines so you can kick its can. When it finally hems up, then kill it. Then you've got to keep the fire out, secure your assets and restock your foam."
Understand the inner workings of storage tanks, particularly internal floating roofs, Williams said.
"If you get the opportunity, go inside of one," he said. "You've got gauging wells. You can see all the holes in them. You don't think that is going to eliminate vapor yields while you foam the angular ring. You've got a ladder inside. Do you think that ladder is sealed? There is vapor yield there."
Williams recommends using dry chemical as well as foam in dealing with fire in internal floaters.
"What is above the foam and the top of the tank?" Williams asked. "Trapped vapor. You do the math and see how long it would take to evacuate trapped vapor with any kind of wind blowing across the eyebrow or scooper vents."
Williams sells foam chambers that discharge dry chemical with foam. Another technique for administering dry chemical is special devices known as wands which hang through the vents to reach the inside. About 90 percent of the way through the foam dischage the dry chemical known as Purple K is added.
"We literally turn it purple," Williams said. "That kills all that trapped vapor. If you don't do that you're in for a long haul with an internal floater. I've been on about nine or 10 internal floaters and haven't had one that was easy."
As for seal fires in internal floaters, the tool of choice for Williams is the Daspit Tool. First, the portable 2,000 gpm monitor can be secured to the tank rim using C-clamps. Then the monitor has direct access to the flames around the inner wall of the tank.
"Never hang one Daspit," Williams said. "Hang two of them."
Communications is an essential component of storage tank fire fighting. Williams F&HC largely rejects the use of radios in favor of hand signals. In a briefing before the Saturday test, Naylor instructed the Hired Gun Gang on emergency signals.
"We're going to use the air horn on the truck to signal," he said. "Three blasts mean there is an unsafe act and everybody needs to pay attention to what is going on, probably a broken hose. We'll bring that pump down until we isolate the hose. The big thing is nobody gets hurt."
Dwight Williams added that if the pump operators hear the horn blow and it is not immediately apparent what is wrong operators should bring all the pumps down.
As Galliano noted during his workshop session, the hose lay for the Shootout was far from pretty. With that much hose involved, some hose had to be laid across other hose. Dwight Williams noted in his last minute instructions that kinking was likely to be a problem. He suggested establishing three or four hose teams with at least 10 people per team to straighten kinked hose.
"Do it with gloves on," Williams said. "If you're in there messing with that hose it will pinch your fingers, maybe break them. Do it with your palms up and push it away from you."
Naylor said that the worst place for hose kinking is behind the monitors.
"If you can keep your hoses pulled straight back away from the guns as the hose fills it will be a lot easier to deal with," Naylor said.
With 13,000 feet of hose on the ground, some system had to be devised to keep it organized. At both the 1997 and 2006 Shootouts each length of hose was taped and marked near the coupling to identify which pump and nozzle it connects to, Galliano said. If a length of hose should fail during an operation, it can quickly be isolated and the pump brought back into operation.
Galliano noted that while much of the newer hose in use for the Shootout has modern locking Storz, some of the older hose did not.
"We've learned that you have to be careful when it charges up because it wants to twist," Galliano said. "A lot of time that's where it comes apart and can really hurt somebody."
Williams outlined the rest of the procedure. Hoses would be filled to the nozzle, then brought up simultaneously. Operators will then be dispatched to their monitors one at a time to adjust them from fog to straight stream.
"You bring the steam in quick so you don't tear up the levy and put the pond in our lap," Williams said. "When that's done, you can stay on the gun or withdraw. I'll be out on the edge someplace where Chauncey can see me and I'll give him directions with hand signals."
Different flammable materials call for different technique in foam application, Williams said.
"On crude oil, hot residual or asphalt, any hot oil, you pass that nozzle all the way across it, then come off, then repeat," Williams said. "We call that teasing. The first time you do it the fire is really going to get mad. The second time its a little better. The third or fourth time it starts laying down. That's when you've footprinted the tank. If you haven't done it before you might want to get someone who has to guide you because it can be challenging."
Knowing how the product behaves is also important, Williams said.
"Where is the heat sink going to be deepest?" he asked. "It goes down at an angle. The hottest side of the tank gets deeper quicker. And many times when crude stratifies you get water pockets -- it's not always on the bottom. I once saw the same crude tank boil three times."
Use react lines to extinguish what Williams F&HC employees usually identify as "five and seven," indicating their position using the clock face.
"This is extremely important," Williams said. "That will save you about half the foam it takes to put the fire out. The biggest pluses today in tank fire fighting are when, how and where to put the reacts."
Williams F&HC has a very simple definition for a hot zone when fire fighting. Anything forward of the nozzle is the hot zone and requires bunker gear, Williams said. Behind the nozzle, where the majority of the work is done, Williams personnel wear helmet, gloves and jump suits.
"The oil companies that hire us don't want to pay for 15-20 minutes in rehab," Williams said. "We have to be on our feet for a while. How long can you wear all that stuff and still be on your feet? Not very long. You use tools that will keep the heat away from you."
After the Shootout ended came the job everyone dreaded -- pickup up the endless hose.
"Nobody got hurt putting all the equipment down so make sure we stay safe when we pick it up," Galliano said. "Keep safety in the forefront." o