Race & Pass

In Articles, Sports & Hobbies by Glyn DemmerLeave a Comment

No, I am not referring to the way we drive up here in GP; these are two important acronyms relating to fire control. We recently did some 4×4 training and ended with a short firefighting demo and afterwards discussed fires, my only experience being on a trip through the Richtersveld where the vehicle in front of me caught fire due to an electrical short, we were able to contain the fire and isolate the cause with minimal damage and soon had the car on the road again. But it could have gone the other way with disastrous consequences; quick action and a readily available fire extinguisher saved the day. What we did was instinctive without much training; I have since then attended the odd firefighting course to ensure that I am better prepared in future.

So let’s get on to Race and Pass; simply RACE helps you establish a course of action when responding to a fire related emergency (or any other emergency);
• RESCUE, move people away from immediate danger.
• ALERT, alert others nearby or use an alarm if indoors.
• CONFINE, attempt to contain the fire and move flammable objects.
• EXTINGUISH/EVACUATE. Extinguish the fire using the PASS method and the appropriate extinguisher then move people further away from the area to a safer place.

Treat any fire as dangerous with the potential to injure or cause death and damage. It is important to have a basic knowledge of firefighting and first aid, with emphasis on CPR as there is a risk of smoke inhalation and inhalation of toxic gases such as Carbon Monoxide. One should travel with a well-stocked first aid kit with enough sachets of burn gel in a variety of sizes.

Thus one should be careful when lighting a fire as well as the location of a fire, if in a campsite use the designated areas and see that tents, equipment and any containers of oil or fuels as well as gas cylinders are well clear. Children should also be kept clear at all times. When lighting the fire ensure that it is well built, ventilated and that conventional firelighters are used, all too often the Braai King resorts to pouring a flammable liquid over a struggling fire with disastrous consequences.

Check that the fire can be contained and that there is no risk that it may spread, have the appropriate extinguisher at hand`(ensure that it was serviced prior to traveling-this applies to extinguishers at home as well). Know how the extinguisher works!

When using the extinguisher apply the PASS method:
• PULL; remove the retaining pin that will allow you to activate the extinguisher as the lever is released.
• AIM; aim the extinguisher and its content at the base of the fire.
• SQUEEZE, squeeze the lever gently to release the extinguishing agent.
• SWEEP, sweep from side to side still aiming at the base of the fire.

Fires are divided into various classes by means of the combustible source and this helps establish the type of extinguisher needed.

• A (wood, cloth, paper, rubbish and other ordinary combustible material)
• B (flammable liquids, petrol, diesel, paraffin, turpentine, methylated spirits and petroleum based products)
• C (energized electrical equipment, such as DB boxes, wiring, fuse boxes etc.)
• D (Combustible materials that burn at extremely high temperatures such as potassium and magnesium)
• E (gases such as propane, LPG, and natural gas)
• F (commercial cooking oils-typical kitchen accident but very dangerous)

Don’t attempt to fight a fire that is out of control with a small fire extinguisher, rather evacuate and get everyone to safety, then call for expert assistance, also be sure that you know what is burning and use a compatible extinguisher. Avoid the risk of smoke inhalation and breathing toxic fumes.

Vehicle fires tend to stem from electrical faults, sparks near an open fuel source, fuel dripping onto a hot component such as an exhaust and grass being set alight by the heat of a catalytic converter. These can be avoided by on trip inspection of the under body when traveling over grassy sections as well as good pre-trip maintenance and inspection of electric components, especially aftermarket fitments. Once an electrical fire has been isolated and extinguished disconnect the battery until the problem is rectified. If a vehicle is beyond help evacuate the area as there will be a risk of a secondary fire as the fuel tank ruptures. This is a reason why it is good practice to keep wallets, passports and identification on oneself in case you have to get out of a burning vehicle, time will not allow you to scrabble around looking for things.

With kitchen fires oxygen deprivation is key to stopping the fire, a fire retardant blanket is a good idea both at home or in the bush.

There is a relatively new extinguisher on the market known as the Fire Stryker, an extremely versatile and useful device that does not take up much space. The Fire Stryker is a flame inhibitor, which is not only compact but affordable, it’s a wand like device about the same size as a Maglite which was originally developed for use in space craft and military applications

It is suitable for class A, B and C fires and when we tested it proved to be a very capable piece of equipment, be warned though the tip gets extremely hot after use. To use one simply strikes the cap across the face of the tube and a stream of fire retarding agent is emitted, total usage time is around 55 seconds, adequate to nip a blaze in the bud. It is maintenance free and highly portable, its size makes it suitable to take on a hike in ones backpack if necessary.

I do however hope that none of our readers ever encounter this type of problem either at home or in the bush but as the boy scouts say” Be prepared”. And lastly always keep leather gloves at hand, they are extremely useful and protect your hands in a heat or fire related emergency.

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