PORTSMOUTH -- More than 90 firefighters from around the world are meeting this week in Portsmouth to learn how best to fight fires aboard ships.
Ships are made of steel, have numerous compartments and multiple decks, which makes it much harder than fighting a structure fire on dry land.
The group gathered at General Dynamics NASSCO Earl Industries Shipyard Thursday. The simulated fire took place aboard the Maritime Administration and Military Sealift Command roll-on/roll-off ship, the MV Cape Ray.
Norfolk Fire Department Battalion Chief Harry Worley said the concept is to expose the students to what a real ship-board fire would be like. "The idea behind the 6-day course is take land-based firefighters and show them what to do in a maritime environment," said Worley.
The fake fire was located two decks down in the ship's engine room. Exercise instructors darkened the entire ship and turned on smoke machines and simulated flames to replicate a real blaze.
It took responders well over half an hour to bring the fire under control.
"They did very well for a first-time experience in unusual circumstances," said Doug Dillon of the Delaware Maritime Incidence Response Team.
"It's an excellent opportunity for the Coast Guard and our partners in the marine community to practice before an event, because inevitably, an event is going to occur," said Master Chief Floyd Greene of U.S. Coast Guard Sector Hampton Roads.
The 22nd Annual Marine Firefighting Symposium is sponsored by the Virginia Port Authority, the Virginia Maritime Association and the Coast Guard.
Members from local, regional and governmental firefighters are particpating in the event, including fire departments from New York and approximately a dozen foreign nationals from Canada, Singapore and the Netherlands.