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Old 09-11-2017, 05:44 PM
cliffrod cliffrod is offline
MetalShaper of the Month January 2020
Join Date: Dec 2014
Location: Spartanburg, SC
Posts: 2,074

Originally Posted by berntd View Post

Lessons learned?
1) In case of a fire, the usually reliable equipment like hose, pump etc. may not work.
2) It is a lost cause if one cannot find the source of the fire.
3) Do not build a workshop out of timber or at least add cladding or coatings (paint?) that is not flammable.
4) Keep ALL rags in a box with a lid or cover. Do not leave them lying anywhere. And I mean anywhere!
5) Who knows??

Who else has had this sort of thing happen?

Point number 1 says it all.

About 25 yrs ago, one of my best friends caught on fire along with a Sportster that he was working on. It's a very bad idea to try to start an engine with NO exhaust pipes or manifolds to take it out for quick test ride in the parking lot. It's very easy to light any loose flooded fuel, melt a fuel line and create massive problems... This was in the service dept at the old local HD dealership, wooden floors, somewhat timber framed old building. Solid black smoke framing him holding up the bike by the handlebars, illuminated by a ball of deep orange 100% gasoline flames. The melted fuel line was simply pouring out gas, feeding the flame faster than it could burn up into the tank. Not cool. he later said he didn't want to drop it because he was trying to not burn down the whole world.

When you see all the "experts", literally 15+/- people, running around like a bunch of circus clowns and screaming like school kids (not kidding) in a panic, it's hard enough to get them out of the way to help. But when two of the first three serious fire extinguishers that I alone used simply go "pffft" and nothing comes out, it's WAY not cool.

Being July in South Carolina with no a/c, he was working somewhat in front of a fan. It was almost impossible to see it in all the black smoke, but it also kept blowing the fire back up every time I got it almost extinguished. Eventually, after a 4th fire extinguisher and 3-4 oil spill booms of quick dry hastily cut open to smother the end of the fire, I got both him, the bike and the decades-long-oil-soaked floor put out.

While the "experts" returned and started to clean the shop, I helped him outside at his request to his van for immediate beer therapy- one for each hand while he held his fully scorched & split-skinned 2nd & 3rd degree burned fingers & hands under water in his ice chest being careful to not get any water in either open beer. I supervised and opened several for him, plus 1-2 for me. The bike had little significant damage and his burns eventually healed fine, which has ever since been credited to the immediate beer therapy.

In between things, when I was inside helping clean up, I looked at the two dead fire extinguishers. Both had gauges reading in the green with recent up to date inspections and were identical in age & condition as the ones that worked. I had to run all over the entire shop and then showroom and then behind counter to find 4 of them on the fly. Know what is where and what else is where in case it doesn't go well.

The point is, don't be naive to think that the one fire extinguisher, hose, bucket of sand or whatever is going to save you life, shop or otherwise. You will be wise to waste a few fire extinguishers PRACTICING how to use one before it is a life or death situation, as well as practicing as best you can what to do if it doesn't go well.
  1. Never trust the gauge on ANY fire extinguisher at face value. Assume it will NOT be any good, no matter what the gauge or inspection tag says. Know where another one is, Plus another. Plus another...
  2. Can you find another fire extinguisher or a hose that reaches/doesn't leak or yanks apart when you jerk it trying to go too fast or ???
  3. Little fire extinguishers run out very quickly. they also don't reach very far.
  4. Big ones sometimes still aren't big enough. 2-3 big ones sometimes still aren't enough.
  5. CO2 versions are different than dry chemical, much different patterns and action in use. Some only have water in them, which are of limited use if not useless or a liability sometimes. Know what they look like before it goes bad.
  6. Most people have never used a fire extinguisher for any reason, much less in a literal life & death, "omg my (blank) is on fire!" situation. Practice before it happens,as well as what to do afterwards. Things don't always go well.
  7. nowadays, what are you or someone else going to do when the cell phone or interweb doesn't come to your rescue? No signal, wrong location, ??? maybe a chatty operator answers the phone like mentioned above? You should know that one of the fastest ways to get the authorities to your place is to call 911 from a landline or from a cell, say "I need help" & your address, say little or nothing else and then hang up. If you don't answer when they call back, they will send someone to check asap. Might not be the fire dept, but they will send some authority immediately- especially in smaller communities.
  8. Have some kind of contingency plan, multiple layers of contingency plans if you can.

Some people simply cannot handle bad situations without panic or freezing. Know who you can trust with your life and who you can't. Some people will not be of any use when it really matters. No need to be inconsiderate about it. Just manage the situation.

Response to serious injuries are similar- think ahead. Plan. Practice what you can. Seizures, things cut off, major injuries to the point of death. What will you do? Working alone? even more reason to think ahead. It may never happen, but... basic first aid, facilitating a bad event to keep it from getting worse. Some people will respond by curling up in the fetal position on the floor mesmerized while their friend is literally dying. That happened another time in TN. So did my blood & guts ex marine former boss that nearly fainted when he saw blood from a deep but relatively minor wound (needed 9 stitches). That was also in TN, in a program teaching self-sufficiency... Go figure. Some people see a dead body, then shut down and cannot help the person that isn't dead yet. Don't be that person. You may be the only one to help. jmho.

btw- My burnt motorcycle friend is doing just fine. We'll already planning on a little beer therapy later tonight, starting in about an hour. More ongoing preparation & practice, just in case. You can never be too prepared.....
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