These videos remind us once again that no matter where you are there will be someone with a video camera poised to share it with the world when your efforts fail (yes, I know some will say that’s the theory my entire career in TV news was based on). In this case the fire might as well have been in the middle of an arena with spectators in the stands gathered to watch and record it and a TV network providing live multi-camera coverage. On this page are just a sampling of the many videos so far on YouTube from the multi-million dollar yacht fire today (Wednesday) at Docklands in Melbourne, Australia (where it is already Thursday).
The top video shows the reaction of some of the crowd to what appears to be wishful thinking on the part of one group of firefighters trying to reach the fire from a bit of a distance. I imagine the main purpose of the firefighters being in that position was to protect those mocking them in case the big boat broke free and drifted toward that side of the harbor.
It appears from the videos the only thing their colleagues who were much closer to the burning ship could muster were a pair of over-matched hand-lines on the dock and in a small boat. As you might imagine, exposure protection seemed to be their priority. And they were successful (or possibly lucky) that there was no other property damage.
Still the transparent nature of this operation, in a place for all of the world to see the inability of the fire department to effectively attack the fire, is probably a good thing. Why, you may ask? Because already citizens, the news media and some key stakeholders are asking questions about the firefighting capability on the extensive waterfront in Melbourne.
Actually, as my friend Bill Schumm at Firegeezer already noted, it’s an issue that’s been on the radar screen of the labor organization representing firefighters. From the Sydney Morning Herald on Wednesday:
The blaze is likely to renew calls for firefighters to be better equipped to deal with marine emergencies.
The Age reported in January that the United Firefighters Union was concerned that billions of dollars worth of vessels that use Port Phillip and Melbourne’s waterways were virtually unprotected in the event of large fires.
More than 100,000 hectares of port waters are reliant on two four-metre aluminium boats fitted with petrol-powered pump hoses, and two aluminium dinghies. Fire officers must request the support of commercially-operated tugs in large fires.
MFB West Melbourne station officer Joff Spencer, who was off duty yesterday, said marine response officers were incapable of containing the fire from the water because their four-metre aluminium boat with a pump-powered hose lacked the capability. ”There was no way in the world a four-metre tinnie with a 200-litre pump was going to put that fire out,” Mr Spencer said.
In November 2010, the MFB secured $9.8 million for a large firefighting boat. But moves to acquire one have been delayed while it assessed whether to buy or lease a vessel.
As Firegeezer also noted, the fire pointed out another significant failure. That boat had been purchased Wednesday morning and was in flames by 4:30 PM, leaving three workers to jump into the water to escape.
The first video below is the earliest clip I could find with smoke showing from the vessel. At the bottom is a news report with chopper shots showing the layout of the fireground more clearly.
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