Safety Alert 04/93 Committed to Safety • Residential Camp Fire Incident • Background • On the night of 12th July 1993, a fire broke out at the residential camp of one of our major service contractors. The camp was of portacabin style construction, with a central Mess/Kitchen/Bar/Recreational complex, consisting of an aggregation of cabins, approximately 24 in number. Sleeping accommodation was provided as separate individual cabins in a senior and junior camp. This central complex has been destroyed entirely by the fire, however the surrounding accommodation modules escaped serious damage due largely to their physical separation from the central complex. The fire started in the kitchen, where a saucepan of hydraulic oil with a flash point of 99 deg C was being heated on the kitchen stove in order to condition a small electrical equipment component. The oil ignited, and escalated rapidly to a major fire. Attempts were made to control the fire by the contractor’s staff, however due to the rapid escalation of the fire, the amount of smoke generated, and the failure of a fire pump, these efforts were unsuccessful. The camp was evacuated with no injury resulting from the accident, and the fire brought under control by the PDO emergency services. Propane storage bottles stored in the proximity of the kitchen hindered fire fighting operations, and they finally exploded, causing a large hole to be blown in the wall against which they were stored. • Learning Points • Heating of any oil other than routine cooking oil should not be undertaken in a kitchen environment; • The heating of industrial oils should only be performed in a fit for purposes facility, and the use of high flash point oils is preferred. • Never leave a pan of oil on a heat source unsupervised, if it is necessary to leave the area (kitchen), then remove the pan from the source of heat.
Committed to Safety • Learning Points cont’d ... • All persons involved in heating oil are to be familiar with the use of a fire blanket for the control of pan fires, and such a fire blanket should always be available. • Once a fire “takes hold” inside a portacabin, or combined portacabin complex, the fire progression is rapid, and the likelihood is such that the unit(s) cannot be saved. • Evacuation in an emergency can be 100% successful if the evacuation procedure includes an effective method of ensuring that the facility has been totally cleared, be it a ‘personnel on board’ type technique, or by a ‘fire warden’ technique. • “On line” propane gas bottles are to be separated by a wall from combustible material if closer than 5 metres, to provide a heat radiation shield. • Storage of empty / spare propane bottles is to be in a ventilated enclosure at least 20 meters from combustible materials.