Local Heart, Global Soul

September 5, 2019

A Type of “Company” Fire Station Tour…

Filed under: PHOTOGRAPHY,ROTTERDAM,Rotterdam Harbour/Port,THE NETHERLANDS — kiwidutch @ 1:00 am
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(photograph © Kiwidutch)

Little Mr. has a passion for the emergency services, in particular the Fire Brigade. The Port of Rotterdam has a large number of company sponsored fire stations, positioned around the port to deal with the large chemical plants, chemical and petroleum silos. The companies involved in their production are the ones who sponsor these stations (although if you think about it, probably it is actually a requirement of their insurance companies).

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

With a large number of flammable and explosive tanks, the risk of chain-reaction fires and explosions would be substantial unless brought under control extremely quickly. There would also be the risk of toxic clouds should some of these tanks explode, so it’s interesting to see the volume of these small stations, dotted all around the port and able to network with one another should disaster strike.

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

There was a very famous fire in the port in 2011: located in the area of Moerdijk, in a chemical storage and packing company (Chemie-Pack Nederland BV), a massive fire from which many lessons were learned. Fortunately there was no loss of life but the outcome of this fire relied on the speedy decision of the fire marshal who reported the fire, who faced a complex dilemma. There was a 100.000 liter container of acetone near the front of a courtyard, that had once entry access, it getting dangerously hot due to the burning of different chemical directly behind it.

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

Had the acetone reached a critical heat point there would have been a massive explosion which would have wiped out an large area in the immediate vicinity, spread fire and explosions to other storage areas nearby and released a toxic gas cloud over a residential area a little distance away.

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

The acetone tank needed to be cooled with large amount of water to avoid this, but dilemma lay in the fact that the chemical burning behind it needed to be put out with foam, because the chemical would otherwise lay as a thin film on the surface of water and keep burning, so more water would essentially spread the original fire.

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

The decision of the firefighters to immediately cool the acetone with water regardless to the risk of their own lives, and then try and control the spreading of the other fire on the water turned out to be the correct/lucky decision and it took some 29 hours of firefighting to bring the fire under control and several days to extinguish it completely, with fire crews coming from as far away as Zwolle and Lelystad airport (with foam) to assist.

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

Needless to say this fire changed the law on how chemicals can be stored in proximity to one another so this this kind of decision need hopefully not have to be ever made again. The YouTube video below by “RT” gives an indication of how big this fire grew to be.
I did a tour of Rotterdam harbour some years ago but the port is still growing, with some 64 square kilometers of reclaimed land added in recent years. The size of some of these chemical plants is almost beyond imagination, it’s an engineer’s and maybe a plumbers paradise!
One Saturday Himself, Little Mr and I went of a whistle-stop tour of some of these stations, visiting seven of them in total, with Little Mr checking off exactly which type of tenders and equipment they had.

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

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