Still thinking of disasters, there have been fires. We have fire extinguishers all over the plant. We even have instructional classes on how to use them. PASS: Pull the pin, which unlocks the trigger; Aim the nozzle, aiming for the base of the fire; Squeeze the trigger; and Sweep, moving the nozzle from side to side as the extinguisher discharges. We go outside and start little fires, then take turns putting them out. Also, the Sharonville Fire Department comes out periodically for an inspection. All of our lines, air and water and electric and hydraulic, are color-coded so responding firemen know what is in each line. We are very safety-minded. Now. It’s not always been so.
I remember three fires in particular. I’m sure there have been more. But the first one took place in the 70’s while I was on second shift. I didn’t see the actual fire, but I saw the aftermath. We used to have a storage closet in the locker room filled with all kinds of flammables, such as toilet paper and paper towels and cleaning supplies. Someone reported to our foreman, Jim D., that he thought there might be a fire going on in there. So Jim went to investigate. Now the guy reporting the fire did the correct thing. Leave it alone. Of course, Jim did the one thing you are not supposed to do. I mean, there was smoke coming out from under the door, there was a suspicious red flickering light behind the door, and the door was hot to the touch. So what did Jim do? He opened the door. He was engulfed in flames. Luckily, the fire wasn’t too big and he wasn’t set ablaze. But his eyebrows were gone and his toupee was singed. It didn’t catch fire. That would have been too funny, Jim yanking the rug off his head and throwing it to the floor and stomping on it. Once Jim realized he was still alive he threw water on the fire and put it out. But poor Jim didn’t live that down for a while. Just remember, if you ever suspect there might be a fire behind a closed door, DO NOT OPEN THE DOOR.
The second fire I remember also took place in the 70’s while I was on second shift. We had a shed behind the main building where we stored a lot of bigger things. The shed is still there, but it’s been connected to the main building by a hallway and now serves as the maintenance tool room and our machine shop. But back then it was separate and full of junk. I don’t know how the fire got started. More than likely a cigarette, everybody smoked back then and everybody threw their cigarette butts down everywhere. But it was burning pretty good by the time I got out there. An older press operator, Roy C., had the presence of mind to grab a bucket of water to bring with him when he ran out to see the fire. Only it wasn’t water. The flash point of industrial solvent is pretty low. I’ve dribbled solvent on a spinning aluminum head, then heated the head with a propane torch before flanging it. The aluminum quickly gets hot enough to ignite the solvent, and the flames dance colorfully on the head for a short while as it spins around. But Roy had a five-gallon bucket of the stuff. And he ran into the shed up to the flames and threw it into the fire. The brief but awesome fireball did a number on his eyebrows, too. After everyone stopped laughing we put the fire out with a water hose.
The third fire was more recent, in the 90’s. I was on first shift. It was early in the morning, about 7, and a cloth curtain above the acid tank in the pickle room caught fire. Why there was a cloth curtain above the acid tank, I’m not sure. Something about preventing the fumes from spreading out of the pickle room and into the rest of the shop. Freshly mixed hydrochloric acid is wicked and can do a number on your lungs. And when a large curtain saturated with the fumes is burning, you don’t want to be near it. So we evacuated the building and called the Sharonville Fire Department. They promptly put it out. The only thing that was damaged was that stupid curtain. In the meantime, we all moved to the back of the property, not because we were afraid something would explode but just to keep out of the way of the firemen. An hour or so later, after all the doors were opened and several large fans were brought in the clear the air, we went back to work.
LIke I said, I’m sure there have been other fires, but these are the ones I remember.