Having not been present at the CMASS fire I can only offer some general insight to put the incident in context and how to prepare.
In a sentence: Get the 4-person broom crew on foot to the fire right away.
If you were able to control the fire (stop the spread) before the fire dept arrived, that's a win in my book. Good work.
In most cases, the fire dept would first send in personnel on foot with hand tools (broom, fire rake, pulaski, shovel) to contain the fire. Its the fastest way to containment most of the time (if you can't drive right up to within 150 feet of the fire). That's why we CMASS put the 4 brooms on the trailer. Water is secondary [ go watch the first episode of Fire Chasers on Netflix. ]
If the day and weather are very high for fire risk, the best answer is cancel the launch. The 3 key factors are wind, humidity and fuel dryness.
I remember a summer launch in Acton during the drought. I was standing nearby a LP pad, dead calm, A-motor, normal launch. Just the flecks of BP propellant that bounced off the deflector onto the browned grass started a spot fire that was 5 foot across by the time the first broom got there. Its all about RESPONSE TIME.
Regardless of those factors, any day you are open to any random incident, be it a CATO, spot fire on the range, or a recovery gone wrong with a prang into a motor vehicle. So at some point the stats say you will have another incident. The many replies I read are 100% correct preparedness and training should be ongoing. I'll look into putting together a training and possibly a live burn session.
Since fire growth (spread) is exponential, TIME is the critical factor. Here is how your response should usually go out...
(1) If the fire is on the pad, send the water can first.
(2) If the fire is away (more than 150 feet), send on foot: 4-person crew each with a broom. Stop the spread. Sweep Towards The Fire.
(3) RSO/LCO - If it looks like the fire is going to go out of control, call the fire dept. The sooner you call them the less mad they will be.
(4) Then send 2 people with one water can. When person 1 is tired, person 2 takes over (or carry the can with a strap between 2 people).
(5) If its really far away, then put the 2nd water can, the fire rake, and all the coolers (emptied of contents) into a pickup truck. Drive to the nearest water source (stream, pond), and fill up all the coolers you have. Then go to the scene. In most cases, you need the water cans and more water to back up the 4-person broom crew.
Last edit: 6 months 2 days ago by alan.
The following user(s) said Thank You: guyw, tlainhart
Really great analysis and comments! I think there are 3 key reasons why the fire was successfully knocked down by the time the fire department arrived on the scene (number 1 being the most important):
1. Training in how to combat a fire(and how not to) provided by Alan.
2. Having the fire fighting equipment available (brooms, rake and water cans).
3. Having enough people available to continuously use the available equipment.
Thanks for the kind words. You all did it on your own actually. I'm glad the key concepts stayed with you.
Tomorrow March 27th 2023 I'm meeting with the authority having jurisdiction to see if I can step _way_ outside the box and get clearance to run a live burn training on my property in town. Vegetation will start to green up in the next couple weeks there my be no more than a week or so advance notice if I get the green light. Would probably be on a Saturday 3pm-7pm since I work on Sundays, and the state prohibits controlled burns before 5PM. I'm thinking 3 hours, a 1.5 hour classroom session followed by a 1.5 hour practical training. Will keep you posted.
Have received initial clearance to run a live fire training exercise in my town. Expect a discussion on fire training at the club meeting 4 April 2023. Will need a good turnout from the members to make this worth while. No prior experience necessary but you must be over 18 years old and in good health. Training session run by experienced wildland fire instructors.
Training for away fire event scheduled on Saturday 15 April 2023 full story.... click
The CMASS RSO role has become too narrow due to insufficient volunteers on the range. What we call RSO is functioning most of the time as Safety Check Officer. Our RSO does the best they can to do both jobs and doing so all day without a replacement. Our LCO does do a good job of tracking the recovery trajectory, but those eyes are gone once it lands. The best solution is indeed 2 persons RSO qualified on duty for the duration of the launch. One should be doing the "big picture" survey of the range in real time, and the other focus on safety check. Then swap roles every 30 minutes. Okay everyone, sign up !