Vulcan was the Roman god of fire, and each year on August 23rd Roman families threw fish into a fire as a sacrifice to appease his anger. From the dawn of civilization fire has been to man both friend and foe. Fire is one of our most helpful servants. It is difficult to imagine what this world would be like if we didn’t have fire. Even the petroleum industry would not exist as we know it today. Although fire is a great help, it is also one of the most devastating forces that exist. We must continue to wage a constant battle to keep it under control. In our operations we do not have many unwanted fires; however a few occur each year—some having very serious results.
There are two major factors in preventing disastrous fires. First we must eliminate what causes them and second we need to be able to control and extinguish them if they occur. Poor housekeeping is a major cause of fire. When we allow rubbish and litter to accumulate, use poor storage procedures, or have leaking tanks and lines, we are inviting trouble.
There are three classes of interest to the drilling industry. These are:
Class A fires, the most common type, in ordinary combustible materials such as rags, wood, and paper.
Class B fires, inflammable liquids, i.e., gasoline, kerosene, naphtha, butane, turpentine and paints.
Class C fires, in live electrical equipment such as motors, tans, and switches.
And here should be clarified a vitally important point concerning fire extinguishers. These first aid fire instruments are designed for use on fires only in the fire’s early stages. They cannot be expected to be fully effective if used after a fire has already spread to large quantities of combustible material.
Class A fires — combustibles such as rags, wood, paper are best extinguished by plain water, soda-acid, gas cartridge, or pump tank type of extinguisher. Also on this type of fire, one shouldn’t forget that the garden hose might extinguish the blaze.
Class B fires — these inflammable liquids are successfully fought with a foam or loaded-stream type of extinguisher. Dry chemical is also excellent for this type of fire. The contents of these extinguishers smother such fires by quickly eliminating the oxygen supply. These extinguishers may also be used on Class A fires.
Class C fires — those in live electrical equipment — should never be fought with a liquid type of extinguisher, for the shock hazard in this type fire is always present. Such fires are best out-maneuvered by use of a vaporizing, carbon dioxide or dry chemical extinguisher. These extinguishers contain no water and their effect is to blanket and smother.
Don’t Block the Space around Fire Equipment