Smoke is shown coming from the Roger Blough at Fincantieri Bay Ship Building in Sturgeon Bay after the bulk carrier caught fire while in winter. File photo by Craig Sterrett.
There have been three major vessel fires in Sturgeon Bay since 2015, starting with the Alpena that year, followed by Burns Harbor in 2019, then the Roger Blough in February 2021. This 858ft bulk carrier was winter laid up at Fincantieri Bay Shipbuilding when the fire broke out in the cabin area.
the Blough was the largest fire of the three, but the Alpena has put the Sturgeon Bay Fire Department on a more progressive path when it comes to training on shipboard fires – a type of fire that Sturgeon Bay Fire Chief Tim Dietman has described as a high risk and infrequent fire.
Last week, the Door County Board of Supervisors authorized Door County Emergency Management to accept a Wisconsin Emergency Management grant of $7,092 for onboard firefighting training.
The grant is a reimbursement because the training by a Virginia company took place in December 2021 and attracted 70 firefighters from county and state departments in Wisconsin and Michigan. The high turnout was a reflection of rare but necessary training that is becoming increasingly important not only for fire departments along the coasts, but also for inland departments whose members may not be never entered a ship, even without fire.
“Because of the uniqueness of the training, that’s what attracted them,” said Dan Kane, director of emergency management for Door County, who applied for the grant. “This type of training is not widely available.”
The two-day training included classroom work on the challenges and limitations of fighting a fire on a boat: “You can’t just blow a hole in the side of a boat,” for example, Dietman said. . The second day of training included ship tours at Fincantieri Bay Shipbuilding, including the Roger Bloughto describe what happened with this fire and how it was fought.
Dietman was attending onboard firefighting training when he took the call requesting information about the training provided by the recently accepted county grant. He said they also underwent training from the US Coast Guard about a month ago.
“It’s progressing [that type of training]”, Dietman said. “It’s something that’s never really been done, but the potential for something bad to happen is extremely high.”