HOW TO RESPOND TO FIRE-RELATED INCIDENTS
WEDNESDAY // APRIL 18, 2018
Through all the Coachella Festival madness, you may not have heard about the Coachella fire that sparked about six miles from the Empire Polo Fields shortly after Beyonce’s performance Saturday evening.
“Dry vegetation helped fuel the fire, which was first reported around 4:30 a.m. Sunday near the 46600 block of Tyler Street,” KSEQ reported.
Firefighters contained the Tyler Fire by 2:45 p.m. on Sunday after 15 acres of land had burned and caused downed power lines. Thankfully nobody was injured and no damage to any structures occurred.
According to the Riverside County Fire Department, humans have caused the fire and the investigation is still ongoing.
Coachella Music Festival had luck on their side with the fire having zero impact on the major outdoor event and its festival goers’ safety.
This does, however, bring an important topic front and center. How do we properly respond to fire-related incidents during an outdoor event, not just Coachella?
In an event where a fire were to occur on stage during load-in, setup, or load-out, does your crew know what proper actions to take and when?
The Event Safety Alliance discussed this topic in the past based on the knowledge of fire experts, where we outlined below.
Do we fight the fire or evacuate? The fire experts told the ESA most cases are best to evacuate, since seemingly manageable fires may quickly grow too large to contain without the experts and proper equipment.
Two rule of thumbs:
If the fire is bigger than you, get out as quickly as possible while collecting as many people with you and urging others to avoid the area. Make sure somebody called 911.
If the fire is smaller than you, alert everyone to evacuate and find the nearest fire extinguisher. If you prevail, follow the first step above.
The ESA outlines some considerations in attempting to extinguish a fire, found on the ESA’s blog post, listed below:
Know the location of each fire extinguisher in your workspace and have been properly trained in its use. Likewise, ensure that the extinguisher is appropriate for the type of fire you are fighting
(https://www.osha.gov/SLTC/etools/evacuation/portable_about.html). Fighting a fire with the wrong extinguishing agent can actually increase the size of the fire.
It is best to have a partner when fighting a fire. While one of you is operating the extinguisher, the other can remain focused on the “big picture” and stay in a position to determine if your efforts are diminishing the size of the fire. If the fire is not immediately getting smaller or you doubt whether you are having a significant effect, leave.
While fighting a small fire, always do so from a position between the fire and an accessible exit. Keep your back to the exit in case you must leave quickly. If in doubt, get out. If anything concerns you about your safety, exit immediately and help others do the same. Let properly equipped fire fighters extinguish the fire.
Do not attempt to move burning materials, especially towards occupied areas (such as the audience). While separating materials may seem like an effective way to prevent a fire from increasing in size, you risk injury and spreading the fire.
ALWAYS remove power (shut off electric) BEFORE fighting a fire involving electrical equipment. Electricity can be far more hazardous to those fighting the fire than the fire itself. If you are unable to remove power to electrical equipment, you should not attempt to extinguish the fire yourself. Wait until the equipment is de-energized to fight the fire.
The smoke from burning synthetic textiles (e.g., curtains, clothing, etc.)–and many other synthetic materials such as props, instruments, and furniture–can be highly toxic. (http://fashionbi.com/newspaper/the-health-risks-of-toxic-fibers-and-fabrics). Similarly, the extinguishing agent (powder) from dry chemical and dry powder extinguishers can produce a type of “smoke” that can be irritating and cause respiratory problems for those exposed to it. All people should be evacuated from any smoke-filled area, whether the smoke is from the fire or the fire extinguisher.
Assign someone to meet emergency responders at the street (or wherever they will arrive) and show them exactly how to access the fire area. Also, have someone available to them who knows the electrical system well. These two actions can take minutes off of how long it takes to extinguish a fire and are wildly helpful to emergency responders.
The ESA concludes by telling us the best protection against a fire is through prevention, but knowing what to do makes all the difference.