Fire Down Below: US Navy Uses Contractors for Fire-Watch Support

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Fire watcher on duty duringUSS Carl Vinson overhaul(click to view larger) British sailors on wooden warships used to sing a sea-shanty called the “Fire Down Below.” The song – sung while sailors were raising the anchor, pumping out the bilge, or hauling ropes – was about fighting a fire onboard a ship. Ever since the era of wooden sailing ships, fires onboard ships have been a major concern for the world’s navies. In the era of steel ships, the fire danger might not be as ever-present. But it remains, especially when repair and overhaul work is being done. That type of work requires the use of welders. And where welders work, there is a risk of fires starting. To monitor the welders’ work during ship overhauls, the US Navy uses fire watchers… For example, the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson completed a massive $3.1 billion refueling and complex overhaul in 2009. During the overhaul process, the ship’s fire-watch division [pdf] had 350 sailors performing fire-watch detail at the various “hot-work” locations where welding was taking place. The sailors logged a million work-hours keeping watch. Standard operating equipment for fire watchers are goggles, gloves and CO2 bottles. With overhaul projects […]

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