Fire at Sant’Antnin Waste Treatment Plant

September 29, 2017 in Fire

We all saw it on the news. Like everyone else – at our place of work, at home or at the bar – we watched as the breaking news made it to all four corners of the world of media telling us that, early in the afternoon, the waste recycling plant at Marsascala had caught fire. The flames reportedly broke into a massive, uncontrollable blaze within minutes and the incident immediately became a major topic for discussion. Through the afternoon, as the hours rolled into the evening, everyone was following in awe the fire that failed to subside. And in the mind of each and every EFRU volunteer, the same unyielding question. Is it just a matter of time before the EFRU is called to assist? Or will the CPD control the fire and bring this ordeal to an end soon?

I guess this is the reality of the irony faced by all fire-fighting volunteers. On the one hand, you pray for the quick and safe resolution of the situation – for all the obvious reasons. You hope to God that there are no casualties and look forward for things to return to normal. On the other hand, however, that one little corner of your personality reserved for the fire fighter in you, admits to telling you that you wish to go out there and help. Unfortunately, when volunteers are called out to assist on this sort of mission, it usually does not bode too well, but that’s what the volunteers are there for. To help when the standard procedures are not enough.

At around 1600hrs that evening, the EFRU was called in to provide fire support and also to assist with the manning of one of the CPD fire stations as all the state’s personnel at the time were engaged on this massive fire. Indeed, the fire was one of the biggest the island had ever seen. The greatest cause for concern was the nature of the burning material itself – piles of recyclable (and very flammable) rubbish, made up almost entirely out of paper and plastics. The enormous quantities of these materials not only fuelled the unyielding flames for hours on end, but also threw toxic fumes into the air. This, coupled with the unbearable temperatures of the blaze which melted and fused the burning piles into one huge, unsurpassable lump made the situation a rather dangerous one to our volunteers. Yet to give up was no option and, until they were relieved of their tasks at around 0300hrs the following morning, the EFRU fire fighters were still standing: tired and grimy, but proud to have served with all the energy that they had. 

The days go by and such ordeals gradually become forgotten. Lest we forget however, it is high time to remind ourselves of all the work that Civil Protection workers and volunteers did that day and on a daily basis. One cannot but thank these individuals whose selfless commitment to their cause is the reason for someone else’s peace of mind. If this doesn’t beg praise and admiration towards the people who repeatedly risk their lives to protect that of others, nothing ever will.

 

Iona Muscat – Rescuer & Newsletter Editor

Dingli Farm Fire

October 8, 2014 in Fire

5th August 2014. A normal day for most of us … but not for Mr Xmun Azzopardi and his son, the owners of a Dingli cattle farm, who woke up to the regretful sight of their farm, still burning and in ruins from the previous night’s fire.

Firefighters from the Civil Protection Department (CPD) were called on-site at 2130 hrs on the previous day to control and extinguish the roaring flames from the burning hay, animal feed and farm tools. The fire was so extensive that 12 hours later, the Emergency and Fire Rescue Unit’s (EFRU) assistance was requested to reinforce the deployed CPD team.

An emergency call out was issued at 0826 hrs, and in less than half an hour, the EFRU fire team was on its way to ground zero. Once on the scene, they immediately replaced the sleep deprived and weary CPD personnel, and started working to cool down the charred hay, while AFM 3rd regiment troops rolled and loosened the compact stacks to allow for thorough cooling. Constant water supply was provided from the numerous bowsers called in for assistance, to drench all the hay with water until all smoke traces were extinguished, and any threat of rekindled fire was completely abolished.

Stand down was given to EFRU volunteers at 1100 hrs at which point, all equipment was recovered, cleaned and made ready in advance for another (unfortunate) emergency call out.
Luckily enough, all the 150 farm livestock were saved from a tragic death. The calamitous damage was quantified to an estimate of over €100,000. Hence, the necessity of tending to any fire urgently as every fraction of minute counts in limiting the damage.

David Cristina
EFRU Rescue Volunteer

Has-Saptan Excercise

June 3, 2014 in Fire

Volunteers do not necessarily have the time; they just have the heart.
-Elizabeth Andrew

On Thursdat May 29th , a team of volunteers from the Emergency Fire & Rescue Unit (EFRU) took a day off from their normal work routines to participate in another rescue simulation organised by the Civil Protection Department in the Enemalta’s fuel depot in Has Saptan Complex.

The simulation saw volunteers from the EFRU work together with CPD personnel and other NGOs to rescue a number of casualties from Enemalta’s Complex tunnels which supposedly had given way and trapped workers that were on site at the time.

The EFRU would like to thank the CPD for such simulations which help keep its volunteers oriented with high risk places like ‘Has-Saptan’.’

Gasco LPG bottling plant fire simulation – 8th November 2013

December 31, 2013 in Fire

On the 8th of November, the EFRU participated in a major fire simulation held at GASCO’s LPG bottling plant in Bengħajsa, Birżebbuga. The simulation was organised by the Civil Protection Department together with GASCO Energy Ltd. Due to the huge quantities of gas stored there and the potential risk of a major accident associated with it, the CPD regularly tests the response of its personnel, as well as that of volunteers, to such accidents. The obligations to hold regular simulations arise from the EU Seveso II directive, of which the main objective is to prevent and control major accident hazards.

The simulation was obviously performed “cold”.  That is, with no fire or risk of fire.  However, all participants acted as though a real fire was blazing.

The simulation kicked off at 9 a.m. and from then on it was a race against time to reach the gas bottling plant. Although the design of the plant includes several safety shut off valves to close off the gas in case of an accident, the residual gas in the pipes will still pose a significant risk hazard even after valve shut off. If this gas catches fire, it is imperative to stop the heat from reaching the huge gas storage tanks, as well as the gas cylinders already filled and awaiting distribution. In fact, upon arrival, several hoses were laid to supply the fire engines with water from fire hydrants, while the fire engines pumped this water to create a ‘water curtain’ which would minimise the heat reaching the gas tanks. The next step was to close off one of the manual shut off valves on the gas pipelines. In order to reach this valve safely, two teams of firefighters had to work together and protect each other from the heat of the flames by creating a water curtain in front of them as they advanced towards the valve. Closing the valve would effectively deprive the fire of its fuel, thereby extinguishing the blaze.

In addition to testing the response to accidents, the simulations also give the opportunity to volunteers to practice working alongside each other and alongside the CPD personnel. This would facilitate greatly the team work necessary in case of a real accident, thus helping to save lives and minimise material damage as much as possible.

 

Joe Bonnici
EFRU Rescuer

Eucharistic Congress Celebrations – June 2013

June 10, 2013 in Fire

Members from the Fire Team within the Emergency Fire & Rescue Unit were asked to assist the Civil Protection Department on Friday 7th June during the “Eucharistic Congress Celebrations” held at Misrah San George in the evening.

With hundreds of people present, volunteers from the EFRU were on Stand By in Valletta prepared for the unfortunate event of a fire. Units used were the EFRU main rescue vehicle and the unit’s Fire Truck.

No incidents or accidents related to Fire were reported.

Kalkara Rubbish Dump Fire – August 2012

August 3, 2012 in Fire

Following a fun and informative fire awareness session with the Attard Scout Group at Rinella, as well as a USAR K9 demonstration (  Read Article  ), the EFRU team was about to pack up and head back to HQ. However a thick plume of black smoke was seen rising into the evening sky, close by. Since the team had a full fire engine ready at hand, Team Leader and Operations Manager Sandro Camilleri therefore took the decision to head to the area to check whether assistance was required. Mobile Police Squad officers close to the area accompanied the EFRU fire engine to the exact location of the fire, where a CPD fire engine was already fighting the fire. The EFRU team set up the equipment, put on the fire suite, boots, helmet and gloves and set to work.

Rubbish fires are notorious for generating a lot of heat at their core and it is not enough to put out the visible flames on top. Water has to continue being pumped to cool down the hot spots at the centre that may re-ignite the dump if left unattended. Infact, the water capacity of 3 fire engines was not enough, and like the others, the EFRU fire engine had to go to Kordin fire station to be re-filled and then drive back to continue putting out the fire. It wasn’t before 11 p.m. that the operation concluded, when EFRU were given the stand down by the CPD, and headed back towards HQ. It was another great experience for the whole team but especially to volunteer Christine Grech Sillato, who had her first experience of fire fighting operation. Well done Christine!

EFRU would like to take the opportunity to ask the general public to be responsible and to refrain from dumping rubbish other than in controlled waste sites. Apart from creating an eyesore and producing unpleasant smells for whoever lives or works close by, illegal dump sites create a hazard by attracting pests and especially in the event that the dump catches fire, as was the case today.

Joe Bonnici
EFRU Volunteer and K9 Handler

Foster Clark Fire – June 2012

June 18, 2012 in Fire

The Emergency Fire & Rescue Unit (EFRU) were requested to assist the Civil Protection Department (CPD) in what started as a small grass fire in a field at San Gwann industrial estate at around 4 p.m.

The named fire grew into a massive blaze earlier this afternoon, spreading to the back yard of the Foster Clark factory which contained loads of wood, pellets, chemicals and acetylene cylinders.

Upon the CPD’s call for assistance, at about 5.00pm, EFRU director deployed the unit’s Fire Team with their two Fire Engines. On arrival one of the trucks was placed at the back of the Foster Clark’s yard to take care of the fire in the nearby fields whilst the second truck was needed to relay water from a nearby hydrant.

The EFRU Fire team, together with the CPD personnel managed to control the fire and started the cooling operation which ended at about 11.00pm. An AFM excavator was also called in to assist with cooling down the debris and avoiding further fires during the night due to the heat.

Well done to all those who gave a hand in today’s operation and Thank You to the CPD for training our volunteers to be able to assist in such emergencies.

-Keith Borg
PR & Funding

 

St Theresa School Fire Demonstration – May 2012

May 6, 2012 in Fire

On Saturday 5th May, the Emergency Fire and Rescue Unit (E.F.R.U.) gave another fire safety demonstration, this time at St. Theresa school, Mriehel.

Despite coinciding with the annual Puttinu Football Marathon, where EFRU provide first aid and fire safety, four volunteers still managed to spare time to treat children and parents to a demonstration about the work of a firefighter, the equipment in a fire engine, and basic fire safety in the home. They were also reminded the emergency number 112.

Children had the opportunity to climb into the fire engine, wear a helmet and also had their picture taken with some equipment including a breathing apparatus set. Their questions about fire fighting and volunteering were also answered.

Joe Bonnici – EFRU rescuer & K9 handler

Enemalta Simluation – April 2012

April 26, 2012 in Fire

The Emergency Fire & Rescue Unit (E.F.R.U.) participated in a full scale fire fighting simulation held by the Civil Protection Department (CPD) on Wednesday 25th April 2012 at the Enemalta, gas division, San Lucjan oil company. The Unit’s main role in the exercise was to prevent further disasters, through the heat generated by the simulated fire, by cooling methods using ground monitors and water curtains. Laying hundreds of meters in hoses, connected to the water hydrants available on site and to the fire trucks outside the disaster area, allowed us to successfully complete the CPD’s directions in the minimum possible time. The simulation was rounded up at 1530 hrs after all the equipment was cleared up, cleaned and stacked.